Reigning Asian champion arrested

BARCELONA • Spanish police arrested a Qatari athlete yesterday as part of an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking that has already seen one of the world's top coaches taken into custody.

The man arrested was Qatar's 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 Indoor Championships in Portland earlier this season.

The arrest is the third after police took Somali track coach Jama Aden, whose Ethiopian protege Genzebe Dibaba is the current world 1,500m champion, and a physiotherapist into custody on Monday. Both were 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, which was occupied by a group of athletes coached by the ex-Olympian.

Six doctors from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and officials from the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency (Aepsad) 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, Aepsad and Spanish police.

Aden has a 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, 2008 Olympics 800m silver medallist Ismael Ahmed Ismael, 2012 Olympics 1,500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi, 2012 world junior 1,500m champion Hamza Driouch, and 2013 world indoor 1,500m champion Ayanleh Souleiman.

However, 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 erythropoietin.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian athletics federation said yesterday that it was in the dark about Dibaba.

"We have no information about her," he said. "She will of course be part of the Olympic team if her results meet the minimum criteria.

"She has not reported to us the reason why she didn't take part in the last competitions."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Reigning Asian champion arrested'. Subscribe