Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was rounding the final turn during the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the European Championships when he ripped off his vest in celebration and ran the last 100 meters waving it in the air. It was his third straight title in the event. He said he stripped because of the "pleasure of winning."
After crossing the finish line sans shirt and bib, Mekhissi was given a yellow card for "acting in an unsporting manner." (Track has yellow cards, apparently?) That seemingly ended the drama. Or did it?
Spain, whose athletes finished fourth and fifth in the race, later protested that Mekhissi broke a rule on "clothing, shoes and bibs." The protest was approved and the Algerian-born Mekhissi was disqualified and stripped of his title. For stripping. It has a nice symmetry, you have to admit.
Regardless of rule breaking, Spain's protest is absurd. Spain complaining about athletes going shirtless is like Matthew McConaughey whining that Tatum Channing never wears clothes in his movies. Come on, Spain. You all are the kings of shirtless sports. Rafael Nadal can't go a changeover without flashing his guns to the crowd. If Sergio Ramos and his Spanish soccer teammates could figure out a way to get Adidas to put a logo on their pecs, they would. More power to them. If I had pecs like that, I wouldn't own a shirt.
Regardless, Mekhissi broke the rules and now he's stripped of a title, all because he pulled a Brandi Chastain. He'd deserve sympathy if he didn't have a long record of acting like a clown on the track. In the past, Mekhissi has thrown punches at a teammate after a race and gets into more mascot confrontations than a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Two years ago at the Euro Champs, Mekhissi shoved a mascot to the track. It happened to be a 14-year-old girl. Shoot, him only taking off a shirt could be seen as progress.