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Did Nike or the Chicago Marathon do anything to prevent adidas-contracted East African athletes from competing in the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon?

The speculation is all over Let’s Run. The concern is over a Tweet posted by the person who manages the adidas elite athlete program for athletics, Spencer Nel. He Tweeted, “Can you ask Chicago why they don’t accept any of the adidas contracted East African athletes?”

This is talked about in the thread titled, Fair or foul: Top adidas exec alleges the Chicago Marathon (sponsored by Nike) wouldn’t let any adidas athletes run the race.

Let’s Run reached out to the Chicago Marathon organisers for an answer and their reply was corporate boilerplate. In the reply, there was no answer.

Weldon Johnson of Let’s Run posted the reply in their popular forum, “Thanks for reaching out! The elite athlete program is a signature part of our event, and each year we’re proud to welcome a diverse field of athletes who represent many brands and many countries. We look forward to working with all athletes and their representatives as we continue the great tradition of elite racing in Chicago.”

The men’s winner Tura Abdiwak of Ethiopia is a Nike-contracted athlete. So are many others who finished top-20 including Galen Rupp of the US and Kenyan Eric Kiptanui, who finished 2-3. In the women’s race, many of the top finishers were also Nike-contracted athletes including the top-two, however, third-place finisher Sara Hall is with Asics. 

Although the alleged act of preventing adidas-contracted East African athletes from competing was speculated to just target East Africans. However, there is concern that Chicago is a race that the USATF designates to select American athletes to compete in the World Athletics’ World Track and Field Championships.

Nike invests many millions of dollars into the sport of athletics and is a sponsor of the USATF as well as the Chicago Marathon.

Nike invested $500-million USD into the USATF starting in 2014 with a 23-year contract. While Nike puts its money where its feet are, helping to build or perhaps rebuild the sport of athletics, they may be prone to overprotection of their investment. More is to come of this to be sure.

The Chicago Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors events that allow athletes to compete over a two-year span to win the majors, by placing in Chicago, as well as Tokyo, London, Berlin, Boston, and New York City Marathons.

The Majors attracts destination marathon runners who may have a goal of running all majors as an accomplishment. Due to the pandemic, some of the marathons like London and Boston have been scheduled into the autumn, where traditionally they are run in the late winter. For 2021, all six Majors will have happened over a six-week period of time. Berlin to New York from Sept. 26 to Nov. 7. Tokyo has been rescheduled to 2022.

How the points system works

Athletes earn points for by finishing top five:

1st = 25 points
2nd = 15 points
3rd = 10 points
4th = 5 points
5th = 1 point.

The athlete’s four best races are scored. To be eligible for the jackpot, an athlete must compete in at least one qualifying race in each calendar year of the series.