FAL takes bold step

…as it tells Makatisi to withdraw from the Paris Olympic Games


MASERU – The Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL) made a desperate attempt to withdraw Mokulubete Makatisi from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, resorting to a bold but unsuccessful move. FAL issued a withdrawal letter to Makatisi despite the World Athletics Association’s (WA) endorsement of her participation in the global multi-sport competition. Dated June 13, 2024, under the heading Re: Official notification of withdrawal from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, with Tšeliso Pheta’s signature as FAL President, the local athletics mother-body told Makatisi that her participation at the Olympics had been cancelled.

“Following our telephonic meeting with you and your coach, it is with regret that I inform you of your withdrawal from participating in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,” reads FAL’s letter. “It has come to our attention that the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) did not adhere to the correct procedures in entering your name for the Olympics. This decision was made without consulting your Federation, FAL, which is a clear breach of the established protocols.”

FAL expressed confidence in Makatisi’s potential and encouraged her to focus on future opportunities. “Please take this as an opportunity to focus on your growth and preparation for upcoming events, “the letter also reads. The letter further reads: “In accordance with the Olympic Charter and the Paris 2024 Olympic Allocation Procedure and Regulation documents, it is imperative that all entries are conducted in compliance with the outlined procedures. Unfortunately, LNOC’s actions did not align with these standards, leading to this difficult decision. “We understand that this news may be disappointing and an unpleasant experience. However, it serves as a significant reminder of the importance of adhering to rules and regulations. We encourage you to stay calm and continue preparing yourself for future opportunities.”

However, LNOC Chief Executive Officer Morake Raleaka, stated that Pheta and FAL’s attempt to withdraw Makatisi’s participation had failed. “The World Athletics told Pheta that they could not withdraw Makatisi from the Olympic Games,” Raleaka said in an interview with Public Eye on Tuesday. Raleaka criticised FAL’s actions as harassment. “This is harassment of an athlete,” he said, confirming that Makatisi would participate in the Paris Olympic Games. “Makatisi is going to the Olympics.”

Makatisi confirmed to Public Eye on Tuesday that she received FAL’s letter but was reluctant to comment. “We are in receipt of the letter, my coach (Martin Ngwenya) and I,” said Makatisi.  “To be honest, for now, I have no comment on this issue, and I don’t know if my coach can comment.” When asked if she was continuing her preparation for the Paris Olympic Games, Makatisi said: “I am training for other races, such as Spar Lady and Absa (Run Your City).”

Ngwenya also declined to comment. “Unfortunately, at the moment we can’t comment, myself or the athlete,” said Ngwenya. “We are just focused on our race that is coming this weekend, the Spar Lady women’s race.” The controversy began after LNOC submitted Makatisi’s name for the Universality slot, which infuriated Pheta and FAL, who argued that ’Neheng Khatala deserved the slot more than Makatisi. Khatala ranks 357th while Makatisi ranks 413th in the World Athletics Women’s Marathon rankings. FAL demanded that LNOC replace Makatisi with Khatala, but LNOC did not entertain this plea. Lesotho received the Universality Place after both Makatisi and Khatala failed to meet international qualifying standards for the Paris Olympic Games.

Universality places provide opportunities for athletes from underrepresented National Olympic Committees, aiming to enhance the diversity of participating nations across the Olympic Games’ sports programme.  These places are allocated by the Olympic Games Tripartite Commission, including representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Association of National Olympic Committees, and the Association of Summer Olympics International Federations.

Only two Lesotho athletes, marathoner Tebello Ramakongoana and taekwondo star Michelle Tau, met the qualifying standards for the Paris Olympic Games, scheduled to take place from July 26 to August 11. This means Lesotho will be represented by three athletes at the upcoming Olympics, either Makatisi or Khatala. Khatala represented Lesotho at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, finishing 20th in the women’s marathon. If Makatisi participates, it will be her first appearance at the Olympic Games.