French runner Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad won the European Championships 3,000-meter steeplechase for the third time on Thursday. He also lost his championship title for the third time. Mekhissi-Benabbad was disqualified after taking off his shirt and putting it in his mouth during the final 100 meters of the race.
The stripping steeplechaser, who also won the event in 2010 and 2012, had a comfortable lead coming into the final stretch of the race. In order to wave to the crowd as he finished, he shoved his singlet into his mouth for safekeeping. He said that removing his shirt was simply a side effect of the joy of winning.
It's also the cause of a yellow card. "The action was unacceptable. You don't take off your vest during a race. It isn't done," French athletics federation president Bernard Amsalem said, according to the Telegraph.
"It was the pleasure of winning," Mekhissi-Benabbad in a report from the Sydney Morning Herald. "I was so happy to defend my title. The main thing was to win. I did not know that I was going to get a yellow card for that." He added, “This yellow card is nothing."
It might seem like nothing to Mekhissi-Benabbad compared with his other run-ins with trouble. He lost the 2010 and 2012 European Championship steeplechase titles for slapping and shoving mascots on the track. At the 2011 Diamond League meet, he got into a fistfight with teammate Mehdi Baala after the 1500-meter final.