Is Ethiopia’s Lifetime Doping ban just lip service?

December 29, 2016 0

© Copyright – 2016 – Victoria Sports News

Ethiopia happens to be one of five nations that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has labelled in the category of “Critical Care” because of their lack of out-of-competition drug testing. Interestingly, the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) have decided to bring in lifetime bans to drug cheats, according to Haile Gebrselassie, the new president.

“Our stand is no excuse toward someone who has cheated. As of today, any athlete who has offended will be hit by a life ban,” said Gebrselassie.

The EAF claim that they will carry out drug tests on 200 of their athletes.

This sounds good, however, the apparent, soon-to-come testing and zero-tolerance policy only work when the administration are willing to follow through with them. Additionally, the lifetime bans only work if the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is willing to uphold the policy.

In 2012 the CAS overturned the British Olympic Association’s lifetime ban by-law because they said it does not represent the World Anti-Doping Code.

As for the will to test and ban, in June of 2016 Somalian coach Jama Aden, who presides over Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the world record holder in the 1500-metre event, was busted during a hotel raid in Sabadell, Spain. Twenty of the 22 athletes that were found to be in the hotel were apparently tested, however, magically, zero of them tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. This, despite the fact that the Spanish authorities claim to have photo or video evidence of Aden carrying drug paraphernalia (used needles) to the trash outside at the back of the hotel. He was under 24-hour, month-long surveillance. So much for follow-through.

Dibaba, a highly decorated international athlete who in April of 2015 ran the 1500-metre distance event in a time that is so fast, she bettered a world record that is suspected of being drug-aided and was believed to never be eclipsed. The former world record performance from 1993 should be cleared from the record books. Dibaba ran 3:50.07. China’s Qu Yunxia, as a member of Ma’s Army, held the record for 22 years at 3:50.46.

Junren was relieved of his duties as coach due to six of his athletes testing positive for PEDs.

After Aden was busted, Dibaba mysteriously was unable to run well. Apparently she suffered an ankle injury. Her performances post-drug bust, are just as suspect as her world record.

She ran the Olympic final in the pedestrian time of 4:10.27 to earn the silver medal. The difference between her world record and her Olympic final is nearly 20 seconds. Although Olympic final races are often tactical, this drop in performance is highly questionable.

Aden was released. The will of the Spanish may have been compromised by bribery, for which IAAF personnel have been known to do in the past. Former IAAF president Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata Diack, the head of marketing at the IAAF, were arrested for this very reason. Did Aden or the IAAF or EAF pay off the Spaniards? Currently there is no evidence to suggest this, but what happened with the process?

Historically, few Ethiopians have been caught. In 2002 Alene Emere was suspended for testing positive for Nandrolone. Seven years later Shitaye Gemechu was busted for EPO use and the year before of all things Ambesse Tolosa was caught for morphine usage.

Until ARD TV’s Hajo Seppelt exposed Kenyan doping, or more accurately, the ability to acquire drugs very easily on the street in Nairobi, few Kenyans had tested positive for the very same reason that few Ethiopians have been caught; a lack of transparent, out-of-competition and in-country testing.

Lifetime bans are an excellent start to eradicating doping, however, transparent, out-of-competition and in-country drug testing needs to be undertaken. Additionally, WADA should move without delay to change their policy, so that the CAS cannot be empowered to overturn lifetime ban policies by NSOs. Finally, the EAF need to apply the bans, without prejudice in an open and transparent fashion to be taken seriously.

Kenya, Morocco, Ukraine and Belarus are the other five nations in the category of Critical Care. The IAAF should broaden their scope and add at least two more nations: Jamaica, who have had their fair share of positive tests and Turkey, who appear to have had in place some sort of systemic or organised doping program, for example in 2013, 31 of their athletes tested positive for Stanazolol, the same anabolic steroid that Ben Johnson was martyred for.

The sport of athletics does not need more sacrificial lambs to appease the masses; the sport needs to get serious.

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