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September 22, 2017

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Mekhissi DQed after bare-chested Euro celebration

ZURICH -- Mahiedine Mekhissi thought he was winning his third straight European Championship 3,000-meter steeplechase title and wanted to celebrate in style — bare-chested through the finishing straight.

Instead, the Frenchman added yet another chapter to his controversial career when he was disqualified for taking off his shirt and bib for the last 100 meters.

Two years ago, he violently pushed the championship mascot after winning his second title, and a year earlier he threw punches at a French rival runner at a major meet.

At first, Mekhissi was given a belated warning for his partial strip, and said "it was just the emotion" taking over. But Spain, which stood to gain a bronze medal if Mekhissi was DQed, protested, and after appeal and counterappeal, Mekhissi was scrapped from the results.

"When I took off my vest," he said, "it was because of my joy. I was so happy to defend my title."

It turned another special moment into another controversy. As a runner, his talent is undoubted. He usually falls short only against the Kenyans in global competitions, and has two Olympic silvers and two world bronzes to show for it.

On Thursday, Mekhissi swept in front for good with one kilometer to go to lead a French one-two across the line, with Yoann Kowal taking silver ahead of Poland's Krystian Zalewski.

In the end, the ease of victory didn't matter, the premature celebration did. France middle distance coach Philippe Dupont said Mekhissi wanted to celebrate soccer-style, where players sometimes take off their shirt after scoring a goal. The coach acknowledged it was not the best thing to do.

Gold still remained French as Yoann Kowal moved up into the winner's position, Zalewski took silver, and Spain's Angel Mullera the bronze.

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