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Scandals besmirch end to world athletics championships

Published: 24 Aug 2009 11:14 GMT+02:00

Six track and field stars – among them 26-year-old US bronze medallist Bershawn Jackson – were arrested early on Sunday morning in Berlin after attacking three bouncers.

The 400-metre hurdle medallist was out with five other IAAF athletes in a group of 20 post-competition revellers when they tried to enter the “Havanna” club in Berlin’s Schöneberg district around 4 am, daily Berliner Kurier reported on Monday.

Bouncers told the group, which also included athletes from Cuba and the Bahamas, to wait in the foyer because the club was too full to accept new patrons. The athletes reacted angrily, and began throwing bottles when they were kicked out, the paper said.

Injuries to three doormen included a cranial contusion, a cervical spine injury and a split lip.

Jackson and two athletes from the Bahamas spent the night in jail and were released on Monday. They will be allowed to leave the country, but police are investigating them for disturbing the peace and assault. They face a suspended sentence.

The other athletes were Cuban bronze medallist and triple jumper Alexis Copello (24), Cuban decathlon silver medallist Leonel Suarez (21), triple jumper Leevan Sands (28) from the Bahamas, his hurdle jumper cousin Shamar Sands (24), and Bahamian high jumper Donald Thomas (25).

Meanwhile politicians were enraged on Saturday after disparaging comments about a part of eastern Berlin by public broadcaster sport reporter Wolf-Dieter Poschmann during the women’s’ hammer throw finals.

“If someone grew up in Marzahn and lived through it undamaged, then they are capable of anything,” Poschmann said of German athlete Betty Heidler, who grew up in the notoriously gritty working-class district.

Petra Pau, a high-ranking MP for The Left party from Marzahn-Hellersdorf roots told news agency DPA that the district had produced “many talented artists, athletes and Paralympics victors.”

“What we don’t need is arrogant disdain from the West,” she said of the formerly East Berlin district.

Marzahn Mayor Barbara Pohle told daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that she invited Poschmann to come visit the district.

“I truly regret that journalists for public broadcasters, who themselves have probably never set foot in the district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf, discredit the residents in this way,” Pohle told the paper.

The two scandals come in addition to Berlin discus thrower's Robert Harting's defamatory comments about athletes who were victims of systemic doping under the communist regime in former East Germany. There was also controversy surrounding South African runner Caster Semanya's near refusal to accept her 800-metre race gold medal after being ordered to take a gender test.

But there was at least one happy story at the end of the championships, after Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt was presented with a giant piece of the Berlin Wall on Sunday.

Bolt, who won gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m and shattered his own world records in the individual sprints, was presented with a part of the famous Cold War symbol by Berlin city mayor Klaus Wowereit.

"I'll be delighted to have this gift at my house. I will never forget Berlin," said the 23-year-old Bolt. "I didn't realise (the piece of the Wall) was going to be so big," added the triple Olympic champion.

Bolt's piece of the Wall measures 4.3 square metres and weighs 2.7 tonnes. It will be delivered to Jamaica by ship in the next three weeks, said Wowereit.

"Usain Bolt himself has brought walls down with his world records. We are presenting him with a piece of the Wall to thank him for his fantastic performances," said the mayor.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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