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“I have never been involved or assisted any athlete at any time to dope. This is crazy. I have been coaching since 1982, I currently have over 150 athletes from 20 countries and often athletes will have different agents and different doctors and this one person cheated on their own,” said Jos Hermens during a telephone interview. “I don’t even know what the Swedish article says at this time, but I can tell you after 40 years of coaching with no problems, why would he start doping athletes now at the age of 67,” Hermens added regarding a Swedish news report of Dr. Pieter Vergouwen’s supposed questionable involvement with Swedish-Ethiopian runner Abeba Aregawi.
Abeba Aregawi is an Ethiopian 1500-metre runner who transferred to Sweden in 2009 and claimed to have lived there until 2012 when she was apparently married to Ethiopian-born Swede Henok Weldegebriel for convenience.
She is the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships gold medallist and the 2014 champion at world indoors. She finished fifth in the 2012 London Olympic Games 1500-metre final. An event so riddled with drug users that six of the 12 finalists have been suspended for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, including the gold and silver medallists from Turkey Asli Cakir Alptekin and Camze Bulut as well as the fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth place finishers.
At the time Aregawi claimed to have lived with Weldegebriel in Stockholm. Aregawi got into tax trouble and eventually had to confess that she never lived in Sweden and her marriage to Weldegebriel was indeed a sham; they divorced shortly afterwards. She is now married a second time to Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay. The couple currently lives in Addis Ababa. Tsegay owns a marathon personal best of 2:04.48 from Rotterdam in 2012.
“The problem with her was her husband, he was a f*cking lunatic. He advised her to not pay taxes, she almost went to jail for that,” added Hermens.
On February 29th, Aregawi was suspended for doping from an out of competition test that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) conducted the month before. She was found to have indications of the heart medication meldonium in her blood.
“WADA and the IAAF are doing a good job right now of going in and testing these athletes,” said Hermens when asked about the new bout of positive tests.
According to an article in The Independent from 1998, Doctors Vergouwen and Joammes Marx at the University Hospital in Utrecht expressed that they felt Epoetin, a blood boosting drug that acts like EPO and at the time was difficult to detect, should be legal, “It is a very good and safe medicine, but now the point is: should it be used by athletes?” Marx said in a telephone interview.
“Athletes, in principle, should not use drugs but this one, I think, should be discussed by the International Olympic Committee again. I’m not sure it should be a forbidden drug.”
Ethiopia is one of the several third world countries that do not have out of competition testing set-up, apparently due to the investment required to build and operate facilities, as well as the remoteness of some of the training environments. Apparently there is a simple philosophical difference of opinion regarding the appetite that various national governing bodies feel about catching their own athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the IAAF have stepped up their efforts recently to test athletes in training centres located in Kenya and Ethiopia, the two most successful middle and long-distance running powerhouses, to begin a process of ridding the sport of drug cheats. Currently Russia is banned for apparent systematic doping, however, a recent documentary produced by ARD TV suggests that doping may well be ongoing. The All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) was found to be corrupt, taking bribes to cover up their own athlete’s positive drug tests by an independent commission set up by the IAAF and led by WADA founder and past president Dick Pound.
“These random isolated positive drug tests in Ethiopia and Kenya have nothing to do with management, it is just random pharmacists or doctors and sometimes doctors who are not fully certified offering drugs to athletes. It’s just some random lunatic doctors,” added Hermens.
“The thing with Dr. Vergouwen is he is the very best at diagnosing injuries, this is why he has worked with so many athletes for so long. We send athletes to him all the time, because he can diagnose injuries better than anyone else. The problem is to do with the East Bloc countries like Latvia or Ukraine making these drugs and these random pharmacists. It has nothing to do with us,” shared Hermens.
WADA and the IAAF are apparently focussed on testing in Ethiopia at this time. Last week three other Ethiopian athletes have been suspended. According to the Guardian.com: ‘the national team doctor, Ayalew Tilhaun said Ethiopians recently tested positive for steroids, testosterone, the stimulant ephedrine and the diuretic furosemide, among other banned substances.’
Apparently world record holder in the 1500m, Genzebe Dibaba’s coach, Jama Aden may be under investigation.
Last year two of his athletes were suspended including Laila Traby of France, who is a 10,000m runner. French police found EPO in her apartment, while Hamza Driouch was suspended for Athlete Biological Passport anomalies, Driouch competed for Qatar.
Dibaba currently holds the world record in the 1500m distance, which she set in 2015 at 3:50.07 in Monaco. In that race she finally broke Chinese athlete Qu Yunxia’s record of 3:50.46 that was set in 1993 under a cloud of suspicion, that has darkened the sport’s image ever since.
Recently a letter from team-mate Wang Junxia to a Chinese journalist, that went unpublished for two decades surfaced alleging that her coach Ma Junren had forced his athletes known as “Ma’s Army” to dope. The performances by the Chinese athletes at the time have been under great suspicion as being enhanced by PEDs. Junren had attempted to assemble a new training group but several of his runners that were slated to compete during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games tested positive for EPO and were subsequently dropped from the team.
“You can see why these athletes dope. Not that I am saying that it is okay or anything like that, as I am not, but the very best athletes do not need to dope. It is the male 2:10 marathon runners who want to run 2:05 and the women who run 2:30 who want to run 2:22 and earn $30,000 prize money. That to them is a lot of money and when they win $30,000 in prize money it doesn’t matter so much to them that they are suspended for four years,” said Hermens of the Ethiopians and Kenyans who have been suspended recently.
Hermens is a Coach, Manager and Director at Global Sports Communications based in the Netherlands. Hermens was a competitive athlete during the 1970s. His 20K and one-hour run performances from 1976 are notable records. He ran the 20K in the time of 57:24.20 and the one-hour run to the distance of 20.944 kilometres.