Zola Budd taking athletics authorities to court

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Zola Budd is still being unfairly treated, her South African running club manager says. This time by athletics officials in her home country. So she's taking them to court.

The distance runner who gained fame as a barefoot teenage sensation in the 1980s is starting legal proceedings in South Africa for an unfair disqualification in a recent marathon, Ray de Vries said.

De Vries manages the Hooters Athletics Club, which the now U.S.-based Budd runs for in South Africa. He said the former 5,000-meter world record holder was stripped of her win in the 40-49-year-olds class at the grueling 90-kilometer (56-mile) Comrades Marathon in June for not wearing a separate age category tag on her vest.

Yet Budd was instructed by organizers before the race that she didn't need one, De Vries said. She wants "redress" and lawyers have started proceedings on her behalf, he told The Associated Press. They will take the regional athletics body and the Comrades Marathon Association to court, he said.

"It was a homecoming for Zola," De Vries said of Budd's Comrades run, where she finished first in her age class and seventh overall in the women's race. "The whole stadium got up. They went mad. It was just a beautiful, beautiful time after the horribleness of her career. And then it was marred by this silly incident."

Budd, 48, has described her running career as a painful experience.

She left apartheid South Africa as a teenager in the early 1980s to compete internationally, and represented Britain at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. But she was blamed for the collision that knocked home favorite Mary Decker out of the 3,000 meters final, and was also later banned for competing at a race in South Africa when it was still under apartheid — though she claimed she only attended the meet and never ran.

After her Comrades Marathon disqualification, Budd was quoted by South African media as saying: "I won it fair and square. My whole athletics career has been plagued by politics and interference from administrators who are selective and do not apply the rules consistently. It feels like they are targeting me specifically."

De Vries said other athletes also didn't wear age tags and Budd was initially reinstated as the winner in her class by race officials, who realized their mistake. But regional body Kwazulu-Natal Athletics overruled that decision, he said.

KZN Athletics has denied those claims but didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Budd lost out on around $1,000 in prize money for her disqualification, De Vries said, but it "wasn't about the money."

"It's standing up for the principle," he said.


Gerald Imray is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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