Egypt’s World Championships javelin throw silver medallist and major Rio Olympics medal hopeful, Ihab Abdelrahman, has failed a doping test, the Egyptian National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) announced on Sunday.
Abdelrahman, who became Egypt’s first-ever World Athletics Championships medallist when he took silver in Beijing last year, has been provisionally suspended after his ‘A’ sample, taken at his home in Sharqia, Egypt on April 17, 2016, tested positive for testosterone.
The test was done by the Egyptian NADO – a government-funded organisation responsible for testing national athletes in and out-of-competition, as well as athletes from other countries competing within that nation’s borders.
Ihab Abdelrahman 86.00 wins Javelin Throw Men - Stockholm Diamond League 2016— Track N Field Junkie (@TnFjunkie) June 17, 2016
1 Abdelrahman , Ihab... https://t.co/Y8VejMTLcE
A ‘B’ sample has been sent to a lab in Barcelona and should it confirm the positive result, Abdelrahman will be suspended and will miss the Rio Games. Should the Barcelona lab find his ‘B’ sample negative, his provisional suspension will be lifted and the Egyptian will be allowed to compete in Brazil.
Abdelrahman, 27, has been in fine form this season, winning javelin gold at the Diamond League stops in Eugene in May and Stockholm last month, and was considered one of Egypt’s strongest medal prospects in Rio next month.
Walid Ata, the president of the Egyptian Athletics Federation, hit out at the Egyptian National Olympic Committee (NOC), accusing them of retaliating against Abdelrahman, who had publicly criticised them on his Facebook page last week for hiring a “problematic” chef de mission for the athletics squad heading to Rio.
“The world-class Ihab Abdelrahman, who has made Egyptian, Arab, African, and international history is CLEAN and is above any kind of suspicion,” Ata wrote.
“He has been tested, in and out of competition, more than 60 times and he never goes more than a month without getting blood-tested. Yet when he gets tested here, in Egypt, his test comes positive?
After digging into this Ihab Abdelrahman situation... pic.twitter.com/NLDwrn134w— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 24, 2016
“You people are not getting your revenge against Walid Ata or Ihab Abdelrahman or the athletics family, but your malevolence, hate and envy has led to you to get your revenge against Egypt, and you assassinated the happiness of the people of an entire country that was only a few days away from happening.”
Egypt’s weightlifting champion Mohamed Ehab echoed Ata’s words, also blaming foul play on the NOC’s behalf, and alleging that he was on the receiving end of the same treatment four years ago ahead of London 2012.
UAE’s Betlhem Desalegn Belayneh has been dealt an injury blow less than three weeks ahead of her 1,500m race at the Rio Olympics.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian-born Emirati, nicknamed Betty, aggravated a lingering hamstring problem during the race she won in Heusden, Belgium last week and it is unclear how the injury will affect her chances in Rio.
The four-time Asian champion, who ran a 4:03.70 PB in Beijing in May, is considered one of the UAE’s strongest prospects at next month’s Olympic Games.
“After her race in Belgium she got injured. I think it’s a little bit of strain in her right hamstring. Because when she sped up in the last 100m to win, she pulled it,” explained Moroccan former Olympic champion Said Aouita, who was hired last month by the UAE National Olympic Committee as a technical expert to supervise the athletics squad.
Reigning 10,000m Asian champion, Alia Saeed, is fit and ready to compete for top honours in her signature event while hammer thrower Mohamed Omar was replaced in the last minute by middle-distance runner Saud Al Zaabi, who will contest the men’s 1,500m race.
“This change was made last week, when you have really good runners who can participate in World Championships and Olympic Games, the IAAF gives you the chance to field another one, so we were lucky to have the third one and we wanted Mohamed Omar to participate because he’s good,” explained Aouita.
“But the problem is that with the hammer throw, it’s not easy, the field is full. So they asked us to change him with a sprinter or a middle distance runner. So we are sending Saud Al Zaabi from Al Ain. He is not experienced. He is an 800m runner but we are pushing him for the 1,500m because the 800m is a very tough race. So in the 1,500m we thought maybe he can make it to the semi-finals, that would be great. If not, still it would be a very very good experience for him.”
UAE Athletics Federation president Ahmad Al Kamali is hopeful of a strong showing from Saeed and Betty but remains reserved in his predictions.
“It’s the Olympic Games, so the best 17 women in the world will be running the 10,000m and the best 40 in the world will be in the 1,500m. But everyone has a chance,” said Al Kamali.
“I cannot state that either one of the girls will get a medal but I am optimistic that they can be in the lead, especially Alia, because she always turns up for races. She is used to competing in tough races and her time of 31:10 is one of the best five times in the world over 10,000m this year. So everything is possible. I cannot and will not promise a medal but I am optimistic.”
The IOC has been under huge pressure to throw Russia out of the Games after a second World Anti-Doping Agency -funded investigation found proof of a doping programme directed by the Russian state.
But at its second emergency meeting in a week, the IOC’s executive board opted against a collective sanction and asked all international sports federations affected by Russia’s cheating to make their own judgements on eligibility against a set of strict criteria.
A statement from the IOC after Sunday’s meeting said: “Entry (to the Rio Olympics) will be accepted by the IOC only if an athlete is able to provide evidence to the full satisfaction of his or her international federation.”
Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF and other federations now face a race against time to establish those Russians who meet the criteria set out to allow them to compete in Brazil.
WADA had recommended for all Russian athletes to be banned after a report led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren revealed evidence of widespread state-sponsored doping by the country during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
But now there is the likelihood of some Russian athletes appearing in Rio, with an IOC statement released on Sunday afternoon following their executive board meeting confirming international federations will be tasked with the job of banning those who do not tick all the right boxes.