New Delhi: One of the world's greatest ever distance runners, Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele said his heart goes out for the innocent athletes of Russia who have been plunged into uncertainty after IAAF banned the country over doping controversy.
"As a sportsman, I feel for the athletes of Russia. There are many clean athletes, their career will get damaged. I think it is not fair to ban a country. People who have cheated should be banned. It is a big damage for the innocent athletes," said World and Olympic record holder in 5,000 and 10,000 meters, Bekele, who has been named the event ambassador of the 8th Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.
Russian athletes have been put in doldrums as they might not be able to compete in next year's Olympic Games in Rio, following International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decision to ban the country from competitions over accusations of "state-sponsored" doping.
Asked about one of his competitors, British distance runner Mo Farah, 32, who is a gold medallist in the 5000 m and 10,000m at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2015 World Championships, Bekele said he is a great athlete.
"He is a great athlete. He is top of the results now.
What he did is great but what he will do in future, we have to wait and see. We expect a new generation of athletes to come into the sport," said Bekele, who had beaten Farah by just one second after making a move that Farah couldn't match with just less than 12 miles to go at the 2013 Great Ireland Run.
Bekele, who won the 2004 Olympic title in 10,000m, has been hampered by injury over the past five years when in February, 2010, he ruptured a calf muscle. He then suffered from a knee injury that delayed his comeback even further.
The 33-year-old competed at the 2012 London Olympic and ran within the leading group for the whole race, before finishing fourth with a time of 27:32.44, just 1.01 second outside the bronze medalist, his brother Tariku.
In his first race of 2013, Bekele won the Great Ireland Run for a second time with a timing of 60:09, beating Mo Farah by just one second. He made a successful marathon debut in Paris last spring with a record-breaking 2:05:04 victory.
But he again suffered an injury at Dubai Marathon in January and had to withdraw from the London Marathon because of an injury to his right Achilles tendon.
Asked if he will retire after next year's Olympics, he said: "I want to enjoy the sports more, I want to participate in Olympics and World Championship in future. Injury has been a problem for the last five years and it is tough but I won't give up and hopefully make a comeback."
Talking about his next races, Bekele who won a double at the 2008 Summer Olympics, said: "I have a small injury. So, I will see how I recover and then take a call on how I can participate in London and Tokyo Marathons."
"I make mistakes. When you are in good shape, you don't think that problems can come to you. This time, it is too late. If I would have consulted by physio may be I could have been better and injury free but anything can happen in life."
Bekele presence will give a big boost to the participants of the Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday as World record-holders Zersenay Tadese and Florence Kiplagat look to defend their titles.
"I will try to give my best. I do believe in myself and I am strong in my mind. So lets hope for the best," Florence said.
Tadese, who has won the world half marathon title four times and set the world record of 58:23 at the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon, said: I am happy with my shape right now. I am training hard. It is very different to train for marathon and half marathon."