Friday, June 27, 2008

Athletics: Tolosa Claims Innocence

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (25-Jun) -- Ethiopian athletics has been rocked by the news today that marathon runner Ambesse Tolossa has been convicted of a doping offence and has been banned from all competitions for the coming two years.

The 29-year old, who was a member of Ethiopian national teams in the last Olympics in Athens and the last two editions of the IAAF World Championships, failed an in-competition doping test for the banned substance morphine after winning the 2007 Honolulu Marathon last December. He has now been stripped off his title and will not receive the prize money winnings which were pending clearance of a drugs test.

The Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) has now banned the athlete for two years through Feb. 4, 2010.

In an exclusive interview with, Tolosa has denied knowingly taking any banned substance. "I have not knowingly taken any banned substance," he said. "I do not even know what morphine is before I was informed by the Ethiopian Athletics Federation that I had taken the substance."

Tolosa says he is yet unsure about his next course of action: whether to accept the ban or appeal the decision with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"I have been told that I have no choice but to accept the ban," he said. "I still do not know how the substance got into my body and if given the opportunity, I want to prove my innocence."

In Olympic sports, there is a strict liability policy, meaning that an athlete is responsible for any banned substance which enters his or her body, regardless of intent. However, penalties are usually reduced for inadvertant violations if the athlete can demonstrate such was the case.

Unlike many of the world's high profile doping cases, Tolosa did not test positive for a performance-enhancing drug like EPO or steroids, but morphine, which is a strong pain reliever found in both his "A" and "B" test samples. Opiates are included in the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances.

Tolosa claims that he had taken pain relievers two times before his test returned positive. He has presented evidence that he took medication to relieve pain caused by food poisoning, but no residues of morphine have been identified in that medicine. He has yet to present evidence that he was also injected with an analgesic during a dental operation last year.

"Since this is a first offence, he will be ineligible for two years," said Ayalew Tilahun, Ethiopian team doctor. "The whole process has taken us around six months after Ambesse denied taking any banned substances. But the evidence is conclusive and overwhelming and he has now been informed of the ban."

Tolosa's is the first high profile doping offence by an Ethiopian athlete after Alene Emere Reta was also sanctioned after an out-of-competition drugs test in 2003 while he was competing in Japan. He now competes in the United States.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dibaba rides World record momentum to Eastern Europe...

Clearly on another plane too is Tirunesh Dibaba, the twice World 10,000m champion who shattered the 5000m World record in Oslo last weekend, where she stopped the clock in 14:11.15. Her performance knocked more than five-and-a-half seconds from the record set a year earlier by Meseret Defar on the same track. So persistent in her pursuit was Dibaba that she covered the final 3000m in just over 8:27; last year only one woman ran faster in a 3000m race.

Still only 22, Dibaba’s 30:15.67 personal best from 2005 ranks her as the ninth fastest ever, and with her streak of success continuing at the World Cross Country Championships, she is already well on her way to ranking among the all-time distance greats. Missing of course is an Olympic triumph – she took bronze in the 5000m in 2004 – and her performance on Thursday will go a long way in helping her – along with Ethiopian selectors - decide whether she’ll attempt a distance double in Beijing.

As in Oslo, she’ll be joined by older sister Ejegayehu who has a 30:18.39 to her credit; Werknesh Kidane, whose 30:07.15 ranks her as the fourth fastest ever; and Benita Johnson, the Australian record holder (30:37.68) in the 10,000m and Marathon.

Of particular interest will be Kenyan Linet Masai’s debut over the distance. Just 18, she followed up her 2007 World junior Cross Country triumph with a bronze medal finish in the senior race in March.

... and so does Kaki

Germany Provides 800 Soccer Balls to Support Young Players

German Ambassador Dr. Knoop handed over a donation of 800 soccer balls to the Vice Minister of Youth and Sports, Abdisa Yadeta in the Addis Ababa Stadium on Sunday to support young Ethiopian soccer players.

The soccer balls have been made available by the German Chapter of the World University Service in cooperation with the Association of Ethiopians Educated in Germany, the Embassy here said in a statement.

The German Federal Foreign Office provided the funds for the donation, it said adding that the handover ceremony took place just before the World Cup qualifying match Ethiopia vs. Rwanda.

A friendly game of a German school selection against Ethiopian students followed the official match.

At the handover ceremony, German Ambassador Dr. Knoop remarked: "I wish that the German support for young Ethiopian soccer players may help to train promising young talents who may in future make it to the national team. And of course, I hope that the Ethiopian national team will qualify for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa." The Ministry of Youth and Sports in cooperation with the Ethiopian Football Federation will distribute the balls to youth soccer projects all over Ethiopia, the embassy added.

Soccer is the most popular sport in Germany. With a total of 26,000 clubs and 170,000 teams the German Soccer Association (DFB) is one of the largest member organizations with in FIFA. The biggest successes of the German national team are three World Cup titles (1954, 1974, 1990) and winning three European Championships (1972, 1980, 1996). The DFB women won their first World Cup title in the USA in 2003 and added their second 2007 in China. Other achievements include winning six European Championships (1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bekele runs fastest 10,000m on American soil

EUGENE -- Kenenisa Bekele, of Ethiopia, fell short in his bid to break his own world record but still managed to run the fastest 10,000 meters ever on American soil at Sunday's Prefontaine Classic.

Bekele, who was competing in his first outdoor race in the United States, finished in 26 minutes, 25.97 seconds, becoming the first runner to break 27:00 in the United States.

The previous mark was held by Abraham Chebii who ran 27:04.20 seven years ago.

Organizers moved the 10,000m up to an early morning time slot in order to boost the three-time World Champion's chances of breaking his record.

Bekele, who also holds the 5,000m world mark of 12:37.35, was cheered on by a crowd of about 5,000 at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

He ran alone for the majority of the race after lead runner Abreham Feleke dropped out halfway through the race which featured eight Ethiopians and five Kenyans.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dibaba on 5000m World record – ‘I could have run faster’ - ÅF Golden League

Oslo, Norway - For the second straight year, the ExxonMobil Bislett Games - ÅF Golden League - played host to a new women’s 5000m World record. This time around, it was Tirunesh Dibaba smashing the record that her compatriot Meseret Defar smashed last year.

This is a very joyous day for me today,” said Dibaba after her stunning 14:11.15 * performance which eclipsed Defar’s performance by more than five-and-a-half seconds. “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and this is a very special day for me.”

Special indeed. A day after sharing quiet confidence about her first outing of the summer, Dibaba was on a mission which she simply wouldn’t let slip from her grasp.

Brought through the 3000m mark in 8:38.38 by rookie pacesetter Anna Alminova, Dibaba found herself in the lead but three seconds off the record pace. With a little help from big sister Ejegayehu for about a lap-and-a-half, Dibaba found her rhythm by the time she approached the end of the fourth kilometre. By then she was a full second ahead of schedule, and simply needed to hang on. That, she said, wasn’t going to be a problem.

“I was trying my best and I knew I was going to break the record with two laps to go. I was sure,” she reiterated, “with two laps left.” Reeling off 68-second laps in the waning stages, she closed with a final circuit in just under 64 seconds to collect the first outdoor record of her career.

“The early part of the race was pretty good,” she said, “but at 3000m we were a little behind so then I had to catch up on the pace. I could have run faster if the pacing was a little better.”

She arrived in Oslo with a 14:30.40 career best set at this meeting two years ago, but had run faster indoors, most recently in 2007 with her 14:27.42 World record indoors. But like Defar last year, the margin left her nearly speechless. “I’m surprised that I broke it by that much,” she said. “Yes, very surprised. And I’m very happy.”

Her post-African Championships training left her with a good feeling about her early season form.

“After the African championships I prepared myself for more than one month, and it was a very hard preparation.” Not only her training, she said, but also some strong family support helped as well.

“The plan was there for (older sister) Gigi to help me, and she helped me quite a bit. And I want to thank her for that.”

She also thanked the near-capacity crowd at Bislett Stadium. “The people in Oslo were fantastic. They gave me a lot of support and a big boost. They were really part of the record tonight.”

After improving by some 19 seconds, could another barrier, 14 minutes, be breached?

“I don’t think that it’s possible for me,” she said, but after some pause and explanation, she didn’t dismiss the notion outright. “It could be possible, but today, everything was perfect. The weather was perfect, and I am in good shape. There are so many factors for me to run the World record. But I don’t know about going under 14 minutes.”

A reporter asked if she would be giving rival Defar a call now that she has secured the record. Smiling, she said, “I’m not going to call her. But I will meet her in Ethiopia.”

In the meantime, Ethiopia will be meeting her tonight for a little celebration. “The Ethiopian community in Oslo has called us for a party, so we’re going to be there.”

Next up for Dibaba is a 10,000m outing in Ostrava on Thursday, where she’ll start as the event’s two-time World champion. Again she won’t predict a time, but she’ll have to impress Ethiopian selectors with a solid performance to secure her spot on the Olympic team. After her performance here tonight, she said, she may be leaning towards an Olympic double.

“I’m thinking that this makes a strong case for me. I’m going to consider it very seriously.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

Monday, June 2, 2008

Blanko Plans Ethiopia's Downfall

Bonnie Mugabe

Amavubi head coach Tucak Blanko has embarked on preparations for next 2010 World/Africa Cup qualifier against Ethiopia due on June 7 in Addis Ababa.

Blanko took the triumphant Amavubi into yesterday's early morning training session at Remera turfed stadium with an aim of keeping the team's winning streak.

The 22-man squad which looked happy with compact morale trained for one hour and was expected to take a day off visiting their families before returning to the camp late in the evening.

However, Greece based defender Fritz Emeran Nkusi never trained as he is still nursing his ankle injury which he attained during training last week.

Amavubi Stars walloped Mauritania 3-0 to register a promising start in the opener of the group eight of the 2010 World/Africa Cup qualifiers played at Nyamirambo stadium over the weekend.

Skipper Olivier Karekezi was in inspirational form to drag his team with him and record the first win for new coach Tucak Blanko.

Olivier Karekezi hit the target on the 15th minute of the first half before Said Abedi Makasi ended his international goal drought with a penalty on 64th minute.

Bokota Labama Kamana wrapped up things for the Wasps on 75th minute of the game to silence his critics. Rwanda's other crucial, Morocco hammered the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia 3-0 to level points with Rwanda in group eight of the qualifying phase.

Morocco scored two early goals as they beat 10-man Ethiopia in Casablanca.

Abdessalam Benjelloun, grabbed the opening goal after just four minutes; Hicham Aboucharouane doubled the lead for the Atlas Lions eight minutes later.

Ethiopia was reduced to ten men when Fikru Tefera, who plays for South African Champions Super Sport United, was sent off eight minutes into the second half.

Tefera will miss Rwanda tie this weekend in Addis Ababa.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ethiopia’s current ruler not any better than Mengistu

I refer to your question – “Where is justice?” – about the comfort the former Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, lives in Zimbabwe under the protection of another dictator Robert Mugabe (DN May 29, 2008).

The question would have been more pertinent had you just mentioned in passing, the abuses the current Prime Minister, Mr Meles Zenawi, metes out on his own countrymen.

Folks, have a look at this litany of docudrama-like piece of information that you decidedly left out in your editorial:

The Ogaden region, which is predominately inhabited by Somalis, is undergoing according to international NGOs, an operation aimed at torching villages and hanging sympathisers of the local rebel group, Ogaden Liberation Front.

Reports abound about villagers complaining about government troops killing young men, women, children.

During Ethiopia’s 2005 general elections, police killed about 193 protesters when the government-manipulated electoral commission declared victory for Mr Zenawi’s ruling party.

Opposition leaders, who claimed they had won the election outright, decided to stay away from their seats in parliament.

Mr Zenawi’s regime arrested more than 100 opposition politicians and charged them with treason.

They were only released when the international community pleaded for their release, after spending two years in jail.

Ethiopian troops are being killed in Somalia almost every day by landmines, fighting or by Somali insurgent snipers. Imagine how many more are being injured.

They could run into their hundreds.

If sending innocent soldiers into a sure fire killing field for no good reason is not a crime, what is a crime?

A large chunk of the country’s troops is fighting Eritrea, in a barren town called Badme.

Thousands of soldiers from both sides were killed in the 1998-2000 useless war. If that is not a crime what is?

Your editorial was really bereft of any comparison between the past, where Mengistu oppressed Ethiopians for opposing his rule, and the present, when a Western-backed Zenawi commits human atrocities against the same people who suffered under Mengistu and expected a change.

In 1991, when Mr Zenawi’s ragtag militias drove out Mengistu from the capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopians were made to believe that a new era had dawned for them.

How wrong were they! About 17 years of Zenawi’s rule has produced no single free newspaper in Ethiopia and the opposition feels insecure as ever.

The past of Mengistu has almost caught up with the present of Zenawi!

Even, those in the know believe present abuses in Ethiopia eclipse, in terms of intensity and brutality, those of Mengistu, who employed old styles of punishment, like mainly secretly assassinating opponents.

According to international NGOs, the government is starving residents in Ogaden, denies reporters access to the semi-arid region and shamefully claims that it is serving justice to Mengistu.

What a shame!

Only last month, Amnesty International accused the Ethiopian troops, backing Somalia’s titular government, of collective punishment against civilians.

It said the troops killed, gang-raped and gouged out eyes of Somalis in a report replete with chilling accounts of witnesses.

You reported that, but failed to mention it in your editorial.


Morocco beats Ethiopia in 2010 World Cup / African Nations Cup qualifiers

The Moroccan football team beat their Ethiopian counterparts by 3-0 in the first day of the ’group 8’ 2010 World Cup / African Nations Cup qualifiers, in Casablanca, Morocco. The goals by the Moroccan team were scored by Abdessalam Benjelloun (4th), Hicham Aboucherouane (11th) et Houssine Kharja (85th). The “Atlas Lions” will be in Nouakchott Mauritania, June 7, for their next match while Ethiopia will host Rwanda on the 8th of June. (Sunday 1 June - 20:20)