Top Kenyan runners, angered by the reported attempts of some American race organizers and sponsors to limit their appearances in U.S. events, say they are considering a boycott.
The problem, it seems, is that Americans don't like getting beaten.
"I know every sponsor would like to see their own athletes winning, but it's not our mistake to win," said Moses Kiptanui, the first athlete to run a sub-eight minutes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
"If they are not careful, we'll boycott races in the U.S."
The controversy arose after the New York Times reported that race organizers were trying to limit the presence of Kenyan runners and the money they can win in U.S. competitions.
The story, which appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on April 19, cited the May 25 Bolder Boulder race in Colorado as an example.
"How will the Americans feel if their top sprinters are treated the same in Europe or elsewhere?" asked Daniel Komen, holder of five world records who has been invited to participate in a May 31 invitational in Eugene, Ore.
"They have to accept that we're better than them in long distance races, so they should learn from us."
The 21-year-old Komen threatened to mobilize other Kenyan athletes to boycott races in the United States.
"It's a kind of racism," said Federico Rosa, an Italian who coaches many leading Kenyan runners. "If the guys who were winning were white, from Spain or Italy, there would be no problem.
"Maybe if they were black American runners, like in sprinting, it wouldn't be a problem. Americans hate losing. Maybe it's time to have two different groupings in running _ professional for Kenyans and others, amateur for American runners."
But Bolder Boulder organizer Bill Reef said there is no intent to keep foreign runners out of the race, which for the first time will follow an Olympic-style, team format that allows only three runners per country.
"There are going to be more foreign athletes here than last year. We are trying to make this a world-wide running event. The Kenyans are not and were never the issue," Reef said.