Ethiopian athletics embroiled in doping investigation

The Ethiopian Anti-Doping Agency has said nine of the country’s runners, five of them “top athletes,” are under investigation for doping, while Ethiopian-born 1500 metres champion Abeba Aregawi has been suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.

The Ethiopian agency’s general secretary, Solomon Meaza, told the Associated Press news agency that the organisation is investigating the five athletes he described as high-profile after they returned “suspicious” results in tests. “To be clear, some banned (substances) were found in the five athletes,” he said. “They will be summoned and asked if they have taken any banned substances (or) chemicals.”

Solomon declined to name the athletes, give details of the substances they are suspected of using, or say when tests were carried out as investigations are ongoing. He stressed that more tests were needed to establish any guilt, but added: “There is a real concern when the upcoming investigations arrive.”

Solomon said the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has requested contact details for the other four athletes under suspicion and the governing body is investigating them, adding that he has provided the details for those athletes to the IAAF through the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

The latest development raises fears that another leading athletics nation could be embroiled in the doping scandals surrounding the sport. Russia was banned by the IAAF in November amid allegations of widespread doping and cover-ups. Wada has handed Kenya a deadline of April 5 to comply with global anti-doping rules, while four senior Athletics Kenya officials are now under investigation by the IAAF for “potential subversion” of anti-doping procedures. Like Kenya, Ethiopia is a major force in distance running and finished in the top five on the medal table at last year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing with eight medals.

Meanwhile, Swedish athletics has been hit by the news that world indoor 1500 metres champion Aregawi (pictured) has recorded a positive test for a banned substance. Aregawi has been suspended by the Swedish Athletics Federation (SF), while the Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) has withdrawn financial support from the 25-year-old.

“It is with dismay and extreme disappointment we have to make this statement,” SF general secretary Stefan Olsson said, without confirming the banned substance. He added, according to the Reuters news agency: “We are totally opposed to all forms of cheating, doping and illicit substances. We have zero tolerance and this is totally unacceptable.”

Swedish media reported the positive test on her A sample was taken in Addis Adaba earlier this year and that Aregawi has asked for her B sample to be tested. “We can't understand it,” her manager Jos Hermens told the Expressen newspaper. “We are trying to work out what has happened. It's very strange.”

Aregawi ran for Ethiopia at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but began competing for Sweden later that year after being granted citizenship. She has since won gold medals in the 1500 metres at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and the 2014 World Indoor Championships in Sopot.