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Kenyan Runner Drops Out of Tour With U.S. Athletes in South Africa

A U.S.-based Kenyan distance runner quit a tour of South Africa without competing, track officials said Monday.

Kenyan Samson Obwocha, who joined a dozen U.S. athletes for the first international track competition in sports-isolated South Africa since 1976, apparently changed his mind before Saturday’s meet at Pretoria and returned to the United States.

According to Charles Nieuwoudt, president of the South African Amateur Athletic Union, Obwocha felt he would jeopardize his opportunities to compete internationally if he ran in South Africa.

The Americans have risked life suspensions for breaking the international sports boycott against South Africa. U.S. track officials said the athletes will be notified of a hearing when they return, then decide whether to suspend them.

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The U.S. Olympic Committee Athletes Advisory Council has called for the immediate suspension of the 13 Americans who competed in a South African track and field meet Saturday.

“They can go to hell,” Tom Petranoff, the American record-holder in the javelin, said in reference to the threats by the U.S. officials.

“In the 1960s, the U.S. was more racially divided than South Africa ever was,” Petranoff said in an interview with The Citizen, a pro-government daily. “We will definitely return to the States and paint a rosy picture of integrated sport here.”

South Africa has not been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 1960 and was expelled from the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body for track and field, in 1976 because of its policy of apartheid, or racial separation.

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