The organisers of the Trieste half-marathon have been accused of racism after refusing to invite African runners to participate.
Fabio Carini, the race manager, claimed on Saturday that the restriction was to stop African athletes from being exploited.
“This year we have decided only to hire European athletes to avoid what is currently a trade in high-value African athletes, who are simply exploited,” he said on April 27.
“Now is the time that from this Trieste, a multicultural city, says enough to the sport.
“Our goal is that this does not remain an isolated fact but that we change the rules.”
He told Italian channel Rai Television that the athletes were “underpaid and treated indecently in relation to their sporting value”.
But the announcement has caused outrage in Italy, with multiple politicians condemning the decision.
Isabella de Monte, an Italian member of the European Parliament with the Democratic Party, said the only way to react was wiith “outrage.”
“Sport becomes discrimination and disloyalty... hidden behind the vile, shameless excuse of exploitation by managers,” she said on Twitter.