Abeba Aregawi’s meldonium ban lifted, Olympic status unclear

Abeba Aregawi
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Ethiopian-born Swedish runner Abeba Aregawi‘s meldonium ban has been lifted, but the 2013 World 1500m champion’s status for the Olympics has not been determined, the Swedish track and field federation said Thursday.

Aregawi, 26, was suspended indefinitely in February after failing a drug test for meldonium, the substance that later gained widespread media attention after it was learned that many Russians, including Maria Sharapova, also failed tests.

Meldonium was switched from legal to illegal starting Jan. 1. However, it’s unknown exactly how long meldonium stays in the body, so the World Anti-Doping Agency has relaxed punishments. It was not proven Aregawi took meldonium after Jan. 1, according to the Swedish Sports Confederation.

Aregawi has not competed this year, but she had qualified for the Swedish Olympic team by finishing in the top eight at the 2015 World Championships. She was removed from the team with her suspension in February, and now there will be discussions about her status for Rio, according to the Swedish track and federation.

Aregawi ran the fastest women’s 1500m at the London Olympics, when she represented Ethiopia, but it came in the semifinals.

She finished fifth in the slower final won by Turkey’s Asli Cakir Alptekin, who was stripped of the gold medal last year for doping.

In 2013, Aregawi switched to Sweden and won six of the nine Diamond League 1500m races plus the world title in a dominating season. U.S. Olympian Jenny Simpson took silver behind Aregawi at worlds.

In 2014, Aregawi was overtaken as the world’s best 1500m runner by the Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan and Simpson.

In 2015, Aregawi won zero Diamond League races and finished sixth at the world championships, won by Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who also broke the world record last year.

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