BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The coach of World 1500m champion Genzebe Dibaba and other long-distance runners was arrested near Barcelona on Monday after Spanish police raided his hotel room and found traces of EPO and other banned substances.
Jama Aden, who is from Somalia, was detained along with one of his unnamed trainers from Morocco as the IAAF tested 28 of the 30 athletes who were also guests at a hotel in Sabadell, about 25 kilometers from Barcelona. Aden has held annual training camps in the area since 2013.
Police said Aden and his trainer were under arrest on charges of administering and distributing doping substances and endangering public health.
The Spanish anti-doping agency alerted local authorities in 2015 and a thorough investigation followed until the bust Monday at the Arrahona hotel, close to the training facilities were many athletes were preparing for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Up to 60 used syringes were found in the raid, although the police did not specify if all of them came from Aden’s or his trainer’s room.
After questioning by law enforcement, both detainees should face prosecution within 72 hours.
Local authorities did not expect further arrests to follow.
Including Dibaba, the athletes at the raided hotel were mainly from African and Asian countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.
The probe was nicknamed “Operation Rial” by investigators. Rial is also the name of the currency used in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
By late afternoon, all but two of the 30 athletes had been tested for illegal substances by half a dozen representatives from the IAAF.
Dibaba is favored to win the Olympic women’s 1500m title in Rio de Janeiro.
A simultaneous police raid in Madrid also yielded 16 arrests related to the trafficking of drugs and anabolic steroids.
Despite coinciding in time, law enforcement officers stressed there was no connection between the Sabadell operation and the bust in the Spanish capital, mainly linked to the bodybuilding underground market for steroid users.
Spain has long-been under the scrutiny of the World Anti-Doping Agency, who declared its authorities “non-compliant” with it global code because they failed to make required law changes on doping.
The country was unable to form a government following elections last year, so parliament could not update its anti-doping legislation to match the revised international regulations. New elections are due to be held on Sunday.
WADA followed up earlier this month by suspending the accreditation of the Madrid drug-testing lab.
But last Tuesday, a local court ruled that blood bags that are key evidence in one of Spain’s worst doping scandals should be handed over to authorities for investigation. The Madrid Provincial Court said bags containing blood samples and plasma should be handed over to WADA, the Spanish Cycling Federation, the International Cycling Union and Italy’s Olympic committee.
The announcement came 10 years after another high-profile raid nicknamed Operation Puerto revealed a doping network involving some of the world’s top cyclists, when police seized coded blood bags from the Madrid clinic of sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.