British Athletics has confirmed that Jama Aden, the Somali coach who has been arrested by Spanish police on doping charges, no longer works with Mo Farah even though he was “an unofficial facilitator” for Britain’s Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion when he trained in Ethiopia in 2015.
Aden, whose Ethiopian protege Genzebe Dibaba is the 1500m world record holder, was charged with having administered athletes with banned substances following dawn raids on Monday on several houses in the Catalonian town of Sabadell which were occupied by his training group. A Moroccan physiotherapist was also arrested and charged.
The story was reported in El País, which quoted the Catalan interior minister, Jordi Jané, as saying that the banned blood booster EPO was found in six rooms along with anabolic steroids and 60 syringes. Six doctors from the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, and officials from the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency were also present to carry out doping controls on 25 athletes.
Two members of the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency later confirmed to the Guardian that El País’s story was correct.
Meanwhile British Athletics has rushed to clarify Farah’s relationship with Aden, saying it extended only to shouting out times as Farah did laps round the track in the Ethiopian town of Sululta in 2015. Despite this Farah was also photographed with Aden in February when he trained alongside some of the Somali’s athletes at another camp in Ethiopia.
A spokesman for British Athletics told the Guardian that Aden had helped Farah for only one week last year, when the performance director, Neil Black, and the head of endurance, Barry Fudge, were not around, and they had changed their rules when Farah went to Ethiopia this year.
“Jama Aden has not been used by British Athletics in 2016,” the spokesman said. “As a result of the improvements to our best practice, our world class podium performance athletes were accompanied [by a BA representative] at all times in 2016 training camps. All Aden did last year, for a very short period of time, was to hold a stopwatch and shout out times to athletes as they completed their track sessions. There was no coaching or anything technical involved.
As is common with athletics, different training groups will be on the same track at the same time [especially in this part of Ethiopia where there is only one track], so sessions inevitably overlap or occur at the same time which would then have different groups training in close proximity.”
On both occasions Farah’s regular coach, Alberto Salazar, stayed at home in Portland, where he sent workouts and trained his other athletes in the Nike Oregon Project. A spokesman for Farah’s media representatives, Freud Communications, said: “Mo is always with a British Athletics person and of course they will speak to Jama and be courteous if they bump into each other but Jama has no input into Mo’s training whatsoever.”
Last year there was controversy when Farah posed in a selfie with the former world junior 1500m champion Hamza Driouch, a former athlete of Aden’s, who at the time was serving a two-year ban. However, Black and Fudge said they had no idea who Driouch was, let alone that he was serving a ban for irregularities in his biological passport.
Farah then had to face a further media storm last June when Salazar was accused of a number of anti-doping violations, which the American coach has vigorously denied and faced no charges for, although he has been reported to be under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
El País said the Operation Rial investigation into Aden was the result of a co-ordinated action between Spanish police, the IAAF and Spanish anti-doping officers. For three years Aden has based his athletes in the Arrahona hotel in Catalonia, where they train up to three times a day. Organising or promoting doping is a criminal offence in Spain and those found guilty can face up to two years in prison.
The IAAF said in a statement: “The arrest today of distance running coach Jama Aden follows a lengthy investigation by the IAAF which began in 2013, working in close cooperation with Interpol, the Spanish authorities including the Spanish National Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD), Spanish police and other organisations. The IAAF will use all available resources and powers to protect clean athletes and the integrity of our sport. This includes targeting and investigating individuals and coaches who are intent on exploiting athletes and promoting the use of prohibited substances. The IAAF will not be making further comment on the ongoing investigation.”
In February three of Aden’s athletes – Dibaba, Ayanleh Souleiman and Abdalelah Haroun – broke indoor world records in Stockholm in the mile, 1,000m and 500m. Dibaba later took the world 3,000m indoor title in Portland. Dibaba, who has been suffering a toe injury, has not raced this outdoor season but she is a heavy favourite for the women’s 1500m in Rio, while Souleiman is another strong medal hope in the men’s 1500m. Neither athlete has ever tested positive for a banned substance or been involved in any doping case.
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