Chilean marathoner accuses World Athletics of changing rules to exclude him from Paris. GETTY IMAGES

Speaking exclusively to Inside The Games, Hugo Catrileo confirmed what he had said on social media, where he described World Athletics' decision to change the qualification system for Paris as a disgrace. "This decision has affected me psychologically and emotionally," he said.

Hugo Catrileo, silver medallist at the last Pan American Games in Santiago 2023, despite being on the list of qualifiers according to the strict rankings, accused World Athletics (WA) of making an unusual decision that favoured the universality criterion over the world rankings, calling it a "disgrace".

At the end of the qualifying period set by WA, the Chilean athletes qualified for the five-event competition by being in the top 71 of the world rankings (67th and 71st). However, a last-minute change deprived the Chilean athlete of the opportunity to compete in Paris 2024.

On 6 May, the WA announced that Hugo Catrileo had qualified for the Olympic Games. Together with Carlos Diaz, he was the representative for the marathon that will take place on 10 August on the streets of Paris. However, this publication is no longer on the official account of the organisation. The reason: The rules have changed.

The conflict stems from the fact that 70 athletes were qualified to meet the minimum standard, and 11 more were finally added on the basis of universality criteria and not rankings, as the Chilean claimed. As a result, Catrileo dropped from 71st to 82nd place. In other words, from the top of the points-based ranking to second on the waiting list.

"It would be good if the new entrants could go, but behind the 80 who have already qualified on merit. For this shame, it is better to have only a minimum standard and let the rest of the places be filled out of pity. I'll send them an email with my story to see if I can qualify for Los Angeles 2028 in a throwing or jumping event," complained the Chilean marathoner, who ran 2:08:44 in the Chevron Houston Marathon in Texas, USA, on 14 January.

Hugo Catrileo recently won a silver medal at the Pan American Games held in Santiago, Chile. GETTY IMAGES
Hugo Catrileo recently won a silver medal at the Pan American Games held in Santiago, Chile. GETTY IMAGES

In a statement posted on social media, the native of Chile's Araucanía region said there had been an "unusual" change by the IAAF that would prevent him from competing in the French capital. "This decision was taken after the competition, and it hurts me and other athletes in the same situation," he said in an interview with Inside The Games.

"I understand the Olympic spirit, it's good to give countries the opportunity to participate and make it a celebration, but not by overruling the athletes who have met the merits requested by WA. There is an error on the part of the WA, which said that there were 80 places on merit, not 69 as it now says," the young Chilean athlete explained the root of the problem to this journalistic outlet.

According to the official Olympic website, these places will be given to nations "that do not have a qualified relay team or athlete" (athletes from countries that have difficulty qualifying through the usual channels), regardless of ranking or strictly sporting merit.

"The responsibility lies with WA, they made the rules and they should take responsibility. This has not only happened to me, it has happened to American, Australian and South African athletes. It's a worldwide problem, imagine if a powerhouse like the United States had to deal with it, it's because we were all told certain rules that we all respected, but then WA changed them unexpectedly," he replied when I asked who was responsible for these surprising changes.

"We were never informed and there was no information about changes in the criteria. The qualifying system was based on points, then ranking (which you get by accumulating points) and finishing in the top 5 in half marathons (Berlin, NY, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, London). Universality is a criterion that is added as an extra qualification, not as it has been changed for Paris," he clarified the qualification system when asked by Inside The Games.

"This decision has affected me psychologically and emotionally. I was expecting an answer, but it didn't come. I can't sleep at night, I don't sleep more than 5 hours because of it," he said when asked how this change in criteria has affected his daily life.

"If I had known that there would be 11 universal places, which is quite a lot, I would have looked for a marathon to reach a minimum standard straight away. I went to Houston on the 14th of January looking for a place that would give me a qualification, otherwise I would have rested more and prepared better for Seville in February or Hamburg, but since I was guaranteed the ticket if I did what I did in the United States, I decided to do it. I wanted to do things the right way, but because of decisions made by WA, which changed, I ended up stumbling," lamented the Chilean, who is currently in Mexico preparing for Paris and awaiting a decision.

Hugo Catrileo is currently preparing for Paris in Mexico, but he will have to change plans following the news. GETTY IMAGES
Hugo Catrileo is currently preparing for Paris in Mexico, but he will have to change plans following the news. GETTY IMAGES

Asked what will happen to his career after this incident, he said: "I will activate plan B. I still have opportunities (if the 15th place finisher who tested positive is removed). I will try to go to Europe and try to compete there, although economically I don't know if I can, because I spent all the money I had out of my own pocket. So maybe I'll go to the United States and prepare in Chile. The original plan didn't work out, so we'll see how I adapt," he said with an honesty that is unusual in elite athletics.

As to whether he had complained about the situation, he was clear and emphatic. "My complaint was through the federation, which complained to WA, but WA is not responding or providing solutions. Not just to me, but to the Australians and everyone else. Unfortunately you cannot complain to someone who does not give answers," he concluded.