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Athletes harassed in Spain while practicing amid confinement

MADRID – Some got jeered. Others were yelled at by people on their balconies. Many received disapproving looks.

The long-awaited return to practice amid the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t as pleasant as some Spanish athletes had hoped.

High-performance athletes were allowed to resume training in Spain this week after nearly two months of confinement, but some reported being harassed by local residents who thought they were breaking confinement rules.

The government has eased some of the lockdown measures that have been in place because of the pandemic, but restrictions on exercising still apply for most of the population, including specific time frames in which people from different age groups can go outside.

Professional and high-performance athletes are an exception and can exercise at any time, though some people didn’t like seeing them out on the streets outside the permitted time slots for the rest of the population, either because they didn't know the rules or because they didn't recognize the athletes.

“I’ve never been looked at so badly and heard so many negative comments,” Spanish sprinter Cristina Lara wrote on Twitter. “They also jeered some of my colleagues. It looks like we will have to go out with signs identifying ourselves.”

Lara said she went out at about 10:30 a.m., which is a time reserved for the elderly. Children can go out with a parent from noon to 7 p.m., while others can leave their homes from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. or from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., always while staying within a kilometer (0.6 miles) from their residences.

Spanish long-distance runner Carlos Mayo also went out during the time reserved for the elderly on Monday. He told Spanish radio network COPE that he was asked why he was running at that time.

“Of the nearly 50 people that I crossed paths with today, the majority of them older than 65 because that's when they could go out, five verbally called my attention, including a lady who yelled at me from her balcony,” he wrote on Twitter.

Spanish marathon runner Javier Guerra said he was told by people on the streets that he was a bad example.

“From what I’m seeing, I wasn’t the only one who got reprimanded while going out to practice,” he wrote on Twitter. “Being a high-performance athlete, I can practice at any time during the day, but apparently that is not enough ... We understand that this is an extreme situation, but we always have to respect each other.”

Other Spanish athletes who complained of harassment while practicing included steeplechase runner Irene Sánchez Escribano and long-distance runner Ignacio Fontes.

Athletes always must go out carrying the proper documentation showing that they are allowed to be out, otherwise they can be subjected to fines.

Soccer players from the first and second divisions are among the few athletes who can already train inside sports facilities and training centers, which have been closed since Spain entered a lockdown in mid-March to contain the spread of the virus that has already killed more than 25,000 people in the southern European nation.

Some of the sports facilities and training centers are expected to reopen next week in most parts of the country as the government continues to ease some of the restrictions while the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases decrease.

Tennis player Novak Djokovic apparently broke confinement rules on Monday for going onto a tennis court in the Spanish city of Marbella. The tennis federation had said players are not yet allowed to practice on courts.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni