Doping in sports remains a serious and difficult issue, putting an athlete’s health at risk, threatening the integrity of clean athletes and the reputation of sports. This week nine Ethiopian runners including some of the country best athletes are under investigation for doping allegations. However, the state minister of Youth and Sports argued that the number of athletes which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has sent is six.
Ahead of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, WADA said that Russia and Kenya risk the danger of missing out on the world’s biggest sporting event. Now the investigation has moved to other countries including Ethiopia.
Ethiopian-born Swedish athlete, Abeba Aregawi, who was world champion in the 1500 meters, tested positive for banned substances. After the news was announced the focus of both local and international media outlets have turned to the nine athletes. Now the question remains, who are they?
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) has not identifies the athletes in question. However, the Ministry of Youth and Sports said that, if the suspected athletes are found guilty, they will be penalized in accordance with Ethiopian law. Consequently, ministry said that it will reveal the names of the guilty athletes after the investigation is finalized.
Former Ethiopian athletes also agree with the decision of Ethiopian government. “If there are guilty athletes, the Ethiopian government should have to punish them,” two-time Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebreselassie told The Reporter.
Amidst the disarray, Ethiopian athlete Sintayew Merga, while giving an interview on a morning sports radio program on FANA FM said: “I was ill from typhus so I had to take medication. Unfortunately, after being tested I received a letter from WADA informing me that tested positive.”
According to commentators, athletes hire their own mangers, trainers and nutritionists. In that regard, these commentators suggest that a banned substance could be indirectly given to unknowing athletes by these people who desire success.
If it turns out to be true, the Ethiopian cases will be another blow to the sport following major doping scandals in Russia and Kenya in the buildup to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
It can be recalled that Russia was banned from international track and field competition in November after damning allegations of a vast scheme of doping and cover-ups. Kenya is in danger of a similar sanction after four senior track officials were suspended by the IAAF pending investigations into allegations they sought to cover up doping. Kenya also has not fallen in line with global anti-doping rules and faces an April 5 deadline to sort out its failing anti-doping program.
Doping – the use of artificial enhancements and methods to gain an advantage over others in competition – is cheating and is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sports. Furthermore, doping damages competition for clean athletes who play by the rules.
Doping affects all levels of athlete. It could also affect future generations who may be influenced by what top athletes do.
Doping in Ethiopian is a new phenomenon in Ethiopian athletics. However, long distance runners Aleme Emere in 2002, Ambesse Tolosa 2008, Shitaye Gemechu 2009 and Eyerusalem Kuma in 2013 were all banned for two years from athletics by WADA.