Athletes harassed in Spain while practicing amid confinement

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In this photo taken on Sunday May 3, 2020, a group of cyclists, many on racing bikes, ride down the Paseo de la Castellana boulevard in Madrid, Spain after Spaniards were able to go outdoors to do exercise for the second time in seven weeks since the lockdown began to battle the coronavirus outbreak. High-performance athletes were allowed to resume training this week but some reported being harassed by local residents who thought they were breaking confinement rules. (AP Photo/Paul White)

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.