TOP long distance runner Jobo Khatoane’s Olympic dream has been shattered after he was withdrawn from the recently announced provisional squad for the Tokyo games.
Khatoane was ejected from the team for failing to show-up for the 2019 Africa Games in Rabat, Morocco despite pocketing allowances for the trip.
The Olympics will be held in July and August this year after being postponed last year on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is alleged that Khatoane pocketed M25 000 in trip allowances but failed to show up to travel with the team.
Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) president Tšeliso Pheta confirmed to this publication that Khatoane was recently included on the provisional list of athletes but he was later removed after the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) reminded the association of his debt.
“Khatoane was included on the long list submitted to the LNOC but when the list returned from the LNOC, his name was no longer there… and we were reminded that there was still a pending issue involving the athlete,” Pheta said.
“The issue must be resolved and if the athlete must pay back the money, let it be because for now, he cannot represent the country at any event and his career is under threat.”
According to Pheta the matter could have been resolved a long time ago but it was never given the necessary attention as the previous athletics committee was divided.
“The matter was never resolved because of the divisions in the committee and some seemed to be indirectly having hidden interests in the issue.”
On his part, Khatoane said he was unaware of his removal from the team. However, he made it clear that he was now taking a break from national duties.
“I was never told about being removed from the list but since there is no longer adequate time to prepare for the Olympics, I think it is too late to bid for a spot in the Olympics. Also, the manner in which the association is calling the athletes into the national team is not good because they are not following the correct procedures. They are calling the athletes directly without involving coaches.
“To make matters worse, because of the differences between myself and the LNOC, I have decided to take a break from national duty,” Khatoane.
Khatoane conceded that there was money deposited into his account before the Morocco trip but he said he was not aware where the money came from. He said the LNOC never engaged him on the matter. The LNOC never called him for a meeting to enquire what happened for him to fail to make the trip.
“I never gave my account to anyone and when I saw the money in my account I didn’t know where it was coming from. After hearing that that the LNOC was claiming to have deposited money into my account, I was surprised because I never gave them my account details and they never alerted me that they had deposited money into my account. I therefore, kept the money. I still want to know where the money came from and I want to know where …even today I still want to how they got my banking details.”
The athlete said he was also included on the list for the Morocco trip without his consent at a time he was nursing a hamstring injury. He therefore, could not be part of any team.
Khatoane was part of the team which represented Lesotho at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London but he didn’t race because of an injury.
He was also part of team Lesotho at the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Russia where he performed dismally due to an injury.
“On many occasions, I was forced to go for international competitions with injuries and Basotho were always angry with me for poor performances or failing participate due to the injuries. This is why in 2019 I didn’t want to go to Morocco with an injury,” he said.
Khatoane also said he was prepared to pay back the money deposited to his account before the Morocco trip in the event that he knows the source.
“This whole issue is tarnishing my image paying back the money is not a problem but I can only do so after knowing its source.”
LNOC programmes coordinator Faku Masupha said his office was working hand in hand with the LNOC’s Athletes Commission on the matter.
“We are trying to find what really transpired so that we can find a solution to clear the athlete’s name. We are happy he is willing to cooperate. A statement will soon be released on the way forward,” Masupha said.