An Italian half marathon came under fire for its plan to ban African runners from participating.  

The organizers of the Trieste Half Marathon claimed the racial exclusion was to prevent the exploitation of African runners. However, there may be more political motives behind the decision. According to CNN, the race organizer at the forefront of the controversy, Fabio Carini, told newspaper La Repubblica that participants from African nations are often paid very little

"This year we have decided only to hire European athletes until measures are taken to regulate the trade in high-value African athletes, who are simply exploited," Carini said in a statement.

He added the exploitation also hurts Italians and Europeans as a whole. 

"Many organizers endure pressure from managers who exploit athletes and offer them at very low costs. [This] is a detriment to their dignity and damages Italian and European athletes, who are not hired because they cost more."

Far-right politicians celebrated the decision, claiming Carini was preserving the integrity of the 24-year-old running festival.  

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Italian member of the European Parliament Isabella De Monte and Secretary of the Italian Left party Nicola Fratoianni have called the ban an "ignoble, shameless excuse."

"It is evident that this choice goes against every rule, value and ethical code of the world of sport. As well as against common sense," Fratoianni said in a statement.

The Associated Press reports the ban was reversed due to the backlash and after the Italian athletics federation launched an investigation into the race’s leadership.

Last year, Burundian athletes Olivier Irabaruta and Elvanie Nimbona placed first in the male and female races. 

The increased number of African immigrants to the southern European nation has ignited racial tension among white and Black residents. Most of this tension played out in and around the country's sporting events.

In one recent incident, violent fans attacked Tiemoue Bakayoko, a soccer player from professional football club A.C. Milan nearly a week ago. According to CNN, fans reportedly flaunted a pro-Mussolini banner and made fascist salutes.

Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly from the Italian soccer club Napoli was harassed last December in a similar fashion. Fans in the San Siro stadium began to hurl racial slurs and chanted at him before launching into violence. A 35-year-old man was also killed in a mob during December's match.

As for the marathon, the race will go on as planned for May 5 with African athletes. 

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