Olympic marathon runner Guor Mading Maker says he has been suspended by the South Sudan Athletic Federation, amid a dispute over a training stipend.
Mading, who became known internationally when he ran the marathon under the Olympic flag at the 2012 London games, said the secretary-general of the South Sudan Athletic Federation, Kamal John Akol, asked him early this month to hand over funds that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gave him.
Mading said Kamal told him it was the federation's policy to share funds between all of its athletes, rather than allowing an individual, like Mading, to benefit from the funds. Mading says that Kamal told him that if he did not turn over the IOC money to the federation, he would be suspended.
Mading refused to hand over the money.
“I told him, I said I will not send such a scholarship to the federation. If the federation has concerns with this case, then I will address this issue to the IOC. The message came back saying, 'Your message is not acceptable here in South Sudan.' And he went on, saying, 'Tomorrow I will send a letter of suspension of any activity that is related to South Sudanese sport within the country and without,'" Mading said.
Mading says the letter announcing his suspension arrived the following day.
Federation confirms suspension
Abdallah Bol Chol, the technical coach of the federation, confirmed that Mading has been suspended from the federation. He said action was taken against the athlete after he showed disrespect to federation officials in his communications with them.
“Our problem with him is that he said he doesn’t recognize the South Sudan Athletics Federation and that we at the Federation are not responsible for him," he said.
"We told him, 'If you don’t recognize us or run under us, then go and find a federation that you recognize and run for them.' That’s why we suspended him until we see if he changes his mind about what he said,” Chol said.
Chol said the IOC hands over money to national federations, not individual athletes. It was impossible to immediately confirm that with the IOC.
Mading said he wanted to use the IOC funds to continue training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and to help train other South Sudanese athletes. He said that, after sacrificing so much to build himself a career as an athlete, the row with the federation has demoralized him.
Mading said he has always run with one goal in mind: to compete for South Sudan and do his country proud.
“I was poor in the United States, homeless almost. The only thing I was eating from is food stamps, but I sacrificed. I turned down so many job offers to me, because I wanted to do something for South Sudan," he said.
Both Mading and federation officials said they are trying to resolve the row.
Mading ran the marathon at the London games under the Olympic flag because South Sudan did not have a recognized national Olympic committee in 2012. He competed under the name Marial and finished 47th in a time of 2:19:32. His personal best over the distance is just under two hours and 13 minutes.