switching from the rostrum to the hustings is a pathway increasingly being beaten by sportsmen and women. Senior Conservative figures are reportedly trying to enlist the former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss as a parliamentary candidate, following the decision of the Olympic gold medal-winning oarsman James Cracknell to stand in next year's European elections. Meanwhile, Helen Grant, appointed Britain's second female sports minister this week, was a versatile sportswoman in her teenage years, including being North of England under-16 judo champion.
But what does the future hold for Haile Gebrselassie, the Ethiopian who charmed Glasgow at the weekend with victory in the Great Scottish Run? Gebrselassie has flirted with politics for years. Perhaps a decade ago he told me that all of his country loved him as an athlete but, if he were to run for the presidency of Ethiopia, that might change. "It could be a dangerous decision," he said.
His greatest joy has been handing out pay packets to hundreds of workers at his construction company, but now he wants to improve the lot of his impoverished nation. Despite reservations on his wife's part, he says he will stand as an independent candidate in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Ethiopia has just one opposition member of parliament.
A presidential campaign would clearly take longer. If he survives. And the omens are not good for Ethiopian athletes (even iconic ones) at odds with the regime. Mamo Wolde competed in three successive Olympics, claiming medals of each colour, including marathon gold in 1968, but he was accused of involvement in executions during the Mengistu regime, and spent nine years in jail before an Olympic campaign secured his release.
Gebrselassie has already stuck his neck out. Following post-election riots in 2005, hundreds died, but he helped establish an Elders Council which brokered peace and helped to free imprisoned opposition leaders.
Were Gebrselassie to become Ethiopian president, he would not be the first elite sports champion to lead a nation.
In January 1990, we reported the feat of Marcus Stephen, in taking Commonwealth weightlifting gold for Nauru, the world's smallest island republic. Just three days after it became a full Commonwealth nation, he won the Pacific island's first international sports honour.
The whole country (population: 10,000) covers just eight square miles and would fit inside Amsterdam's Schipol airport. Yet it has one vote at the UN, as do the USA and China.
Its economy is based on guano, or bird excrement. Apart from emitting an enormously unpleasant smell, it brings in huge piles of money, with the phosphates being used to make fertiliser. I interviewed Stephen then (he was his country's sole competitor and his father was team manager) and asked him to describe his home.
"There are only 12 streets, and one main street," he told me. "What's it like? Oh, the usual things. Lots of coconut trees, and everyone lives just next to the beach."
Herald readers knew about his success before they did on Nauru. There was no TV in 1990 and radio for just two hours a day. The only newspaper was monthly: four or five sheets stapled together.
Stephen promised that, after he completed his degree, he would "go back home and set up a ministry of sport to help the kids". He painted an idyllic picture. As he had grown up, the island had enjoyed the world's highest per capita income, but reality now is different: 80% wasteland, with the phosphates almost mined out. Most of the land is just metres above sea level, and they have accepted Australian aid in return for allowing their country's use as a penal colony and refuge for asylum-seekers.
Stephen's upbringing in a wealthy family could hardly have been further removed from that of Gebrselassie's impoverished childhood. He was schooled in Melbourne from the age of 13. He hired Blagoy Blagoev, a Bulgarian who had set 43 world records, to teach him all he knew about weightlifting. His family paid to accredit Blagoev as team coach in Auckland.
He won seven Commonwealth gold medals and five silver, competed in three Olympics, and won a world silver medal in 1999. On retirement he entered politics, became an MP (one of just 18) then minister for commerce, industry and environment, minister for the phosphate royalties trust, minister for fisheries, and eventually Nauru's president. He was an eloquent champion on environmental issues, given the threat of global warming.
In November 2011, however, it was claimed he had taken back-handers for phosphate extraction contracts. He said the allegations were "unwarranted and mischievous". Though he resigned, he remained in government until sacked in February this year.
In the apparently incestuous world of Nauru politics, few would bet against a return to favour.
Time will tell if the world's greatest endurance runner can help solve his nation's finances, but economically there seems little difference between Stephen's 10,000-strong constituency and the 80m of Ethiopia. We pray politics does not end in tears for the Little Emperor.