Lesothoâ€™s top female runner, â€˜Neheng Khatala, has been stripped of her Olympic Solidarity Scholarship after a fallout with the Federation of Athletics Lesotho (FAL).
The scholarship is afforded to athletes who perform well in their sport by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) on the recommendation of the federation, in this case, FAL.
Khatala fell out with the federation following the events of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
According to sources close to the matter, Khatala was accused by the federation of allegedly refusing to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games, after she pulled out of a marathon race and opted instead for a 10-kilometer race.
This was because her doctor had warned her of a possible back injury if she competed in the long-distance event, the sources said.
Khatala eventually competed in the 10 000-meter race, clocking in at 33:27:35.
The source further said Khatala was accused of being among athletes who revolted against authorities by demanding to be paid while at the Games.
She is also said to have approached both the FAL and the LNOC seeking a fresh start, but two of the bodies have since replaced her with another runner, Mokulubete Makatise in the scholarship list.
â€œAfter the Commonwealth Games, she was told that she and other athletes caused chaos demanding money and for that reason, she will be stripped of the scholarship,â€ the source said.
Despite her denying the accusation as there was no proof, Khatala was the only athlete punished by the authorities.
According to the source, FAL is also against Khatala having a Caucasian doctor, who has to accompany her in competitions. This is because FAL wants to appoint one of its members as her doctor to enjoy the financial benefits of travelling for international competitions.
Contacted by this publication, Khatala confirmed that she does not have a training sponsorship concerned.
â€œYes, it is true at the moment I am not on the scholarship list by LNOC and have not been for months,â€ Khatala said.
â€œI was suspended, I did not have an injury and I was confused because I should know when I have an injury. All I wanted was to compete but I was suspended.â€
She also denied ever having an injury since the Commonwealth Games, which were held in Birmingham, England from July 28- August 8, 2022.
On his part, the FAL Secretary General, Makara Thibinyane told this publication that Khatala was indeed stripped of the Olympic Solidarity scholarship as a result of the strike she took part in at the Commonwealth Games last year.
â€œIt is true that she was stripped of the scholarship because there are conditions when an athlete signs for the scholarship. One of the conditions is that the athlete cannot demand money when representing the country while she is getting financial support from the scholarship,â€ Thibinyane said.
â€œAnother condition is her performance which was deteriorating. The scholarship is reviewed every year and when hers was reviewed, it was realised that other athletes are performing better than her.â€
If Khatala fails to secure sponsorship, she is set to miss out on the Olympics Paris 2024 due to no funds for training, nutrition, and qualifying competitions.