Long jumper allegedly faked way into Olympics

MONACO — A long jumper and two officials from Albania could face bans after they were accused of submitting false information that helped the athlete get a spot at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Friday it had charged long jumper Izmir Smajlaj, Albanian track federation president Gjegj Ruli and the federation’s general secretary Nikolin Dionisi with disciplinary offenses over a competition held in Albania in May 2021, two months before the Tokyo Olympics. They are all provisionally suspended until the case is resolved.

Smajlaj was named as the competition winner with a national-record jump of 8.16 meters.

“It is alleged that false information was submitted to World Athletics and the AIU in support of this competition result,” the AIU said.

Smajlaj’s result wasn’t good enough to qualify for the Olympics outright, but he got a place under the “universality” rule that allows countries to send one male and female athlete to the Olympic track events. Those athletes still have to apply with evidence of their “technical level” and experience of international events to persuade officials to grant them a place.

Smajlaj jumped 7.86 meters at the Olympics and failed to qualify for the final.

The AIU said in September that Albania was one of seven countries on a “competition manipulation watch list” along with Turkey, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia.

It’s not the first time Tokyo Olympic qualifiers have allegedly been manipulated. Swimming’s world governing body FINA said last year there was “nefarious behavior” around two swim meets in Uzbekistan just before the Olympics and refused to recognize the results. An Indian swimmer who took part in one of the meets said the results were faked and that he had been offered a bribe to keep quiet.

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