Police swoop on top coach in latest doping scandal
Aden arrested after sting in Spain
The coach of world 1,500-metre champion Genzebe Dibaba and a host of middle and long-distance runners has been arrested just outside Barcelona after Spanish police raided his hotel room and found the blood-boosting drug EPO.
Jama Aden, the renowned Somali coach, was detained along with a Moroccan physiotherapist after EPO was found in six rooms, along with anabolic steroids and 60 syringes.
Six doctors from the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, and officials from the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency were also present to carry out doping controls on 28 athletes who were staying in the same hotel.
Police said Aden and his colleague were arrested on charges of administering and distributing doping substances and endangering public health.
The IAAF later revealed that the arrest was the result of an investigation that had begun in 2013.
“The IAAF will use all available resources and powers to protect clean athletes and the integrity of our sport,” the IAAF said in a statement. “This includes targeting and investigating individuals and coaches who are intent on exploiting athletes and promoting the use of prohibited substances.”
The Spanish anti-doping agency alerted local authorities in 2015 and a thorough investigation followed until the raid took place on Monday at the Arrahona hotel, close to the training facilities where some athletes are preparing for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
After questioning by law enforcement, both detainees could now face prosecution within the next 72 hours.
The athletes at the raided hotel were mainly from countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.
The probe was named “Operation Rial” by investigators. Rial is also the name of the currency used in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
While Aden’s most high-profile athlete is Ethiopian protégé Dibaba, the 53-year-old coaches several other prominent athletes, including two UAE runners - Betlhem Belayneh and Alia Saeed.
The 25-year-old Dibaba is one of the hot favourites for gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics; is the current world indoor and outdoor record-holder for 1500m, and the reigning world champion for outdoor 1500m and indoor 3,000m.
Her two sisters, Tirunesh Dibaba, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ejegayehu Dibaba, an Olympic silver medallist, were not trained by Aden but were taking part in his training camp in Spain.
Aden, who ran for Somalia in the 1980s, has also been used in the past by the British federation as an “unofficial facilitator” for training camps in Ethiopia, including at least one attended by double Olympic champion Mo Farah last year.
A spokesman for British Athletics said Aden had not been used in any role this year, as a result of changes it made following the controversy surrounding Farah’s American coach Alberto Salazar.
“All Aden did last year, for a very short period of time, was to hold a stop watch and shout out times to athletes as they completed their track sessions,” said the spokesman. “There was no coaching or anything technical involved.”
Meanwhile, a simultaneous police raid in Madrid resulted in 16 arrests related to the trafficking of drugs and anabolic steroids.
WORLD-CLASS PERFORMER: Genzebe Dibaba trains with Jama Aden and was last year voted the IAAF world athlete of the year