Monday, April 30, 2007

Get In Gear Champ Sports Checkered Past

Get in Gear 10K men's winner Alena Reta has a competitive past that includes a drug suspension in 2001 and disqualification from the 2005 Peachtree Road Race for competing under an assumed name.

Reta (pictured) failed a drug test in Japan in 2001. In 2005, at Peachtree, after serving his suspension, he raced under a different name, in order to sidestep the event's refusal to allow him entry into the race.

Reta is not currently barred from competition.

Originally known as Alena Emere, the runner currently known as Alena Reta has also raced under the name Amara Leta. The 25-year-old Ethiopian who resides in New York City has been made unwelcome at a number of premier road races including Peachtree and New York City Marathon, according to media reports.

His manager Jason Jett is quoted in this newspaper story attributing Reta's name changes to the customs of his culture.

Get in Gear Executive Director Paulette Odenthal told Down the Backstretch that she did not know that Reta had served a drug suspension previously. Asked if she was aware Reta had competed under an assumed name, she replied, "Of course not."

Odenthal said the race was currently investigating the issue. Reta earned $1200 for his win on Saturday.

"The matter is being looked into this week," she said. "This matter is serious for us and is being looked into. We have not had this issue ever come up in the Get in Gear's 30 year history. The Get in Gear is a first class, top notch race and we intend to keep this reputation."

Get in Gear is the third Minnesota road race to have an unwelcome brush with drug violators. 2003 Twin Cities Marathon Champ Eddy Hellebuyck, who set an American masters record of 2:12:46 at the race, failed a drug test for EPO the following January. Last year's women's champion at Grandma's Marathon, Halina Karnatsevich, was stripped of her title for failing the event's post-race drug test.

(Full disclosure: I was the Elite Recruiter at TCM from 2002 through 2004.)

Photo by Pete Miller.

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