French runners provisionally suspended after Monaco brawl

Diamond League duo come to blows in Monaco (UK users only)

French runners Mehdi Baala and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad have been provisionally suspended by the French Athletics Federation after their brawl at Friday's Diamond League meeting.

The pair dramatically came to blows after the 1500m race in Monaco and had to be separated by officials.

Baala apologised for the incident but the FFA condemned their "unspeakable behaviour".

They will now face a disciplinary hearing to be held within eight days.

The duo finished ninth and 11th respectively in a race won by Kenyan Silas Kiplagat, but soon afterwards became embroiled in a fracas rarely seen in the sport.

Baala and Mekhissi-Benabbad did not receive their appearance fees and could be reprimanded further by the IAAF, who are waiting on an official report from the meeting organisers before deciding if they will open their own investigation.

That could have implications for their chances of getting a place at the World Championships to be held in South Korea from 27 August.

An IAAF statement read: "After the report is studied, should it be found there is a case to answer a full investigation would be held.

"And if the case is proven the National Federation and/or the IAAF have the power to sanction the athlete or athletes involved on the grounds of bringing the sport of athletics into disrepute."

Baala said after the race: "I want to apologise to everyone as we are athletes and should lead by example.

"But sometimes there are reactions which are out of character."

The Olympic 1500m bronze medallist told French television channel Canal Plus: "There was a misunderstanding.

"I went to comfort him [Mekhissi-Benabbad] after the race as he looked to be in trouble. But he said 'if I don't say hello, I have my reasons' and put his forehead against mine.

The pair then then lunged at each other, with Baala aiming a headbutt and saying he would "break his rival in two" before they could be separated.

Later, a contrite Baala said: "At such an event, in front of a full stadium, it's a shame to give a bad image of athletics.

"We've just given athletics a bad name and a bad representation of North Africans."

Commentating on the event for BBC Sport, Steve Cram said: "I don't think I've ever seen that in an athletics meeting.

"When you see things like that happen, I've seen the police get involved."

Baala and Mekhissi-Benabbad have had a strained relationship for some time, with former World, Commonwealth and European 1500m champion Cram explaining: "Baala trains with steeplechaser Bouabdellah Tahri, and Tahri and Mekhissi do not get along.

"I suggest some words might have been exchanged."

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