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If the question of Haile Gebrselassie’s true age were argued before some kind of neutral court, the foregoing case, based entirely on circumstantial evidence, would not likely persuade the jury to rule that Gebrselassie is indeed a few years older than he claims. While most, if not all, of the jurors might be privately persuaded, they could not in good faith judge that the runner’s passport age had been proven false beyond a reasonable doubt.
After all, the defense has a pretty good case of its own. Exhibit A is the official date of birth on Haile’s passport. Star witnesses include Gebrselassie’s two major biographers, neither of whom encountered any reason to doubt his age when researching his life story.
“Haile was born on the 18th of April, 1973,” says Klaus Weidt, author of Haile Gebrselassie: The Greatest Runner of All Time. “This was confirmed by Haile himself and he didn’t give any indication that he was uncomfortable with this date. In my view, all other dates and rumours are speculations without any proof.”
Perhaps the strongest evidence that Haile Gebrselassie’s passport age is accurate is his marathon world record of 2:03:59, run on September 27, 2008, when he was officially 35 years and five months old. The official single-age marathon world record for 39-year-old runners is 2:09:24. The record for 40-year-olds is actually somewhat faster—2:08:46—but still far away from Gebrselassie’s mark. These numbers suggest that a 2:03:59 marathon is impossible for a 39- or 40-year-old runner. And if that’s the case, then Gebrselassie could not be four or five years older than he claims to be.