Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Speared in the back?

Egypt’s hopes of an Olympic javelin medal could be dashed because of a doping scandal, reports Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Just two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games, the Egyptian National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) announced that javelin thrower Ihab Abdel-Rahman had tested positive for a sample taken in April which might threaten his participation in Rio.

Abdel-Rahman, 27, is the only Egyptian to have won a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships. He has been at his peak this year, winning a gold medal in the Diamond League with a 87.37 metre throw.

According to Osama Ghoneim, president of NADO, a sample was taken from Abdel-Rahman in April at his home in Sharqia governorate according to the World Anti-Doping Organisation (WADA) Whereabout programme which allows national organisations to pay athletes surprise visits and take samples.

“The sample was taken on 17 April and was sent to the international doping lab in Barcelona for analysis. The results came back showing that sample A had a certain kind of muscular hormone that needs to go through deeper analysis. We agreed and the result was positive. But since Abdel-Rahman is a great champion and the nation holds hope that he would achieve a medal, we have asked for the analysis of sample B,” said Ghoneim.

“And since the Olympics are due to start, we have asked for a quick analysis. We expect the results in four or five days. Meanwhile, and according to WADA rules, the player is temporarily suspended until the result of sample B is announced. If it is also positive, then Abdel-Rahman will not be able to the take part in the Olympics and could also face a long-time suspension from WADA and the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations),” Ghoneim added.

The statement issued by NADO on Sunday was shocking to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Egyptian National Olympic Committee (ENOC), the Egyptian Athletics Federation, the athlete and most importantly the Egyptian sports fan whose reaction varied on social media. Many showed their solidarity with Abdel-Rahman by making him their profile picture. And of course, the news made headlines in most newspapers and became the main talking point in TV and radio sports shows.

The Egyptian Athletics Federation, which is not on good terms with Egyptian sports officials, defended the athlete and claimed it was a conspiracy meant to damage the federation and its athletes. President of the Egyptian Athletics Federation Walid Atta accused NADO and ENOC of ruining Abdel-Rahman’s reputation and preventing him from representing Egypt in the Olympics and therefore denying him the chance to claim an Olympic medal.

In a statement, Atta described his athlete as “clean”. “He has a good record in more than 60 samples that have been taken since he started playing internationally. Samples were taken before, during and after competitions. The results were all negative. So why now, with only 12 days to go for the Olympics? This is a conspiracy against the whole athletics family, not only Ihab,” Atta said.

In a phone-in to sports anchor Ahmed Shobeir, Abdel-Rahman denied wrong-doing. “I swear I am innocent. I haven’t taken any kind of steroids or doping substances. I need the support of everyone now. I also request that the NOC allows me to travel with a doctor to Barcelona to attend the processing of my B sample analysis.”

Egypt is taking part in the 26th edition of the Olympic Games with a 240-man delegation, the biggest participation in the country’s history. Around 120 Egyptian athletes, including 40 women, will be competing in 20 sports from 5 to 21 August in Rio de Janeiro.

Meanwhile, after an urgent Executive Board meeting held 12 days before the start of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the IOC announced on Sunday that it will not impose a collective ban on the participation of all Russian athletes in Rio.

After listening to a detailed presentation from Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) president Alexander Zhukov, the IOC decided that the decision on the entry of Russian athletes in Rio will be left up to the 27 individual international sports federations. The IAAF had announced its suspension of Russian track and field athletes from the Games on 18 June, a decision that was held up by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

In his presentation to the IOC, Zhukov said that the selected Russian athletes for the Rio 2016 Games have been tested over the last six months by foreign anti-doping agencies, having submitted more than 3,000 doping samples across foreign laboratories, with “the vast majority of the results” being negative.

In its statement, the IOC said that the International Federations (IFs) were to allow their Russian athletes entry into the Games only if an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record proved they were clean in accordance to the World Anti-Doping Code.

“The IFs should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking into account only reliable adequate international tests, and the specificities of the athlete’s sport and its rules, in order to ensure a level playing field.”

The IOC also announced, somewhat controversially, that ROC was forbidden from naming any athlete for Rio 2016 who had ever been sanctioned for doping, even if they had served the appropriate sanction. This means that whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova will not be allowed to compete in Rio, despite being given the all-clear to compete as an independent neutral athlete by the IAAF as “someone having made a truly exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes, fair play and the integrity and authenticity of the sport”.

WADA said it was disappointed that Olympics leaders had rejected their plea to ban Russia from the Rio Games.

WADA’s investigators had found further evidence that dope-testing in Russia has been manipulated by official bodies.

WADA President Craig Reedie says the organisation is “disappointed that the IOC did not heed WADA’s executive committee recommendations” after investigators “exposed, beyond a reasonable doubt, a state-run doping programme in Russia that seriously undermines the principles of clean sport”.

With only a few days to go for the Olympics, the question is whether Russia’s international federations are prepared to conduct rigorous testing and screening on a total of 387 athletes named by the ROC in time.

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