Ethiopia Risks IAAF Ban Over Doping Tests

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

In an Olympic year, Ethiopian athletics is being threatened with a ban from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) if they do not get their house in order and begin proper doping testing on their athletes.

The IAAF expects Ethiopia to do mass testing on almost 200 athletes by November.

If they do not comply with the testing requirements the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will pursue sanctions on the country’s athletics federation, while the IAAF may also instil a ban.

Ethiopia national track team doctor Ayalew Tilahun revealed that the country will begin testing this week in an effort to complete doping tests on 150 to 200 athletes during the next seven months.

“We are told that we could be banned from the IAAF if we don’t comply with the request,” Ayalew said at a news conference in Addis Ababa, according to the Associated Press. Dr Tilahun said that the drug tests must be provided to both WADA and the IAAF for review.

Financial support for the testing has come in the form of $300,000 from the Ethiopian government. This is important for the East African nation as they stand to be banned from all sports if their doping program is not improved to a standard that both WADA and the IAAF are pleased with.

WADA have pencilled in a progress report for June 3, when officials from the anti-doping group will visit Ethiopia.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe is also likely to make a visit to the country in May for similar purposes, as he had previously identified Ethiopia as a nation that required special attention with regards to their anti-doping efforts.

Ethiopian Athletics Federation head Alebachew Nigussie believes that there is no threat of a ban affecting the Ethiopian athletes ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as the deadline for testing to be completed falls after the international competition takes place. Having said that, Nigussie admitted that his federation could not rest on their laurels.

Athletes Under Investigation

At the beginning of March the Ethiopian Anti-Doping Agency revealed that nine of their athletes were under investigation due to failed doping tests.

Amongst the nine in total, the Anti-Doping Agency’s general secretary Solomon Meaza said that they are investigating five high-profile athletes after what they described as “suspicious” results in tests.

In February the IAAF announced a suspension ahead of an investigation into Ethiopian-born former 1,500-meter world champion Abeba Aregawi. She failed an out-of-competition test in Ethiopia, where she trains, although she now competes for Sweden, according to The Guardian.

Kenya Athletics Walking A Tightrope

This negative news for Ethiopian athletics comes after a doping crisis in fellow East African nation Kenya, where over 40 Kenyan athletes have been banned for doping by the WADA.

Title holder of the Chicago and Boston Marathon, Rita Jeptoo, 400 meter runner Joyce Zakari and renowned road runner Mathew Kisorio are all implicated for failing doping tests.

In February Athletics Kenya (AK) chief executive officer, Isaac Mwangi, was banned by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics commission for six months concerning allegations of interference in anti-doping investigations regarding Kenyan athletics since last year.

Kenya have already missed two deadlines in February and April imposed on them for the purposes of organising their anti-doping efforts to a sufficient level, according to CBC. They face being declared non-compliant by WADA at its board meeting in Montreal on May 12 if they do not adhere to a final deadline of May 2.

The Kenyan athletes risk missing out on the 2016 Olympics in Rio later in the year if they do not show the required efforts being made to eradicate the sport of doping.