Ethiopian track athlete Lily Abdullayeva recently opened up to London-based The Guardian newspaper about her mistreatment in Azerbaijan after running for the country in international competitions.
Abdullayeva, who was persuaded by a Turkish coach to switch allegiance to Azerbaijan in 2009, said she had prize money stolen and was tricked into taking drugs while competing for the country.
“They promised me a good salary, a house, and expensive cars if I won races,” she told The Guardian in a recent interview. “But I never received any. I had my prize money stolen, was tricked into taking drugs, and I would advise against anyone doing it.”
In a statement responding to the allegations, the Azerbaijan Athletics Federation said while it was true that Abdullayeva competed as an athlete in Azerbaijan from 2009 to 2013, “it should be pointed out that she had not entered into any contractual arrangement with the Azerbaijan Athletics Federation.” The Federation added that she was competing for an individual sports club and that she has received all due prize money. “The Federation refutes her allegations as baseless that she is still somehow due some prize money,” the statement concluded.
According to The Guardian’s report, Azerbaijan is not the only country that is trading in athletes. “Every Olympic medal ever won by Bahrain has been by an athlete born in Africa. Ruth Jebet, a 20-year-old from Kenya, claimed the country’s first-ever Olympic gold in the 3,000m steeplechase in Rio last summer, while Eunice Kirwa, also from Kenya, won silver in the marathon,” read a part of the report.
Abdullayeva has now switched allegiance back to Ethiopia. “I tried my best for Azerbaijan,” she told The Guardian. “I trained hard and ran well, but in the end they treated me like rubbish.”
Read The Guardian’s full report here.