Spanish police said they had arrested a Qatari athlete on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking that has already seen one of the world’s top coaches taken into custody.
Media reported that the man arrested was Sudanese-born Qatari Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla, the two-time defending Asian 800m champion who finished sixth at last year’s world championships in Beijing and fifth at the world indoors in Portland earlier this season.
“A Qatari athlete was arrested,” Catalonian police said, without naming him.
The arrest is the third after police took Somali track coach Jama Aden, whose Ethiopian protege Genzebe Dibaba is the current world 1500m champion, and a physiotherapist into custody on Monday, both charged with having administered athletes with banned substances.
Aden was picked up in a dawn raid at a hotel in the Catalonian town of Sabadell occupied by a group of athletes coached by the ex-Olympian.
Six doctors from world athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, and officials from the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency were also present to carry out doping controls on some athletes.
The IAAF explained that Aden’s arrest was the culmination of a long-running investigation including Interpol, the Spanish National Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD) and Spanish police.
Aden has a proven track record of nurturing some of the best middle-distance runners.
Aside from Dibaba, he has coached two-time world indoor 800m champion Abubaker Kaki Khamis and 2008 Beijing Olympics 800m silver medallist Ismael Ahmed Ismael, both from Sudan, 2012 London Olympics 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, 2012 world junior 1500m champion Hamza Driouch, a Moroccan-born Qatari, and 2013 world indoor 1500m champion Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti.
But Aden has also courted controversy, with Driouch handed a two-year ban for inconsistencies in his biological passport and French runner Laila Traby also being banned after testing positive for blood-boosting EPO.
Driouch at first claimed Aden had doped him, but later retracted his allegations.
Dibaba, sister of running legend Tirunesh, has seen her pre-Rio Olympic plans hampered by a toe injury that has recently ruled her out of meetings in Eugene, Oslo and Stockholm.
The 25-year-old world record holder is the big favourite to strike gold in the women’s 1500m at the August 5-21 Rio Games.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian athletics federation told AFP on Tuesday that it was in the dark about Dibaba.
“We have no information about Genzebe Dibaba at this time,” the spokesman said.
“She will of course be part of the Olympic team to Rio if her results meet the minimum criteria.”
There was also no clarity on her injury.
“This is unclear. She has not reported to us the reason why she didn’t take part in the last competitions,” he said. – Agence France-Presse