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Friday, September 17, 2021

Report: Qatari athlete Balla arrested in Spanish anti-doping probe

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Musaab Balla
Musaeb Balla

Updated on June 23 with information about the athletes’ court hearing.

Qatari athlete Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla has reportedly been arrested by Spanish police as part of an ongoing investigation into sports doping.

The runner, who became the first national to reach the finals of the  International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last year, was detained by police, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported in a story that was tweeted by the anti-doping agency AEPSAD.

Sudanese-born Balla, 27, came sixth in the 800-meter track event at the World Championships in Beijing last summer.

He appeared in court in Sabadell outside Barcelona on Wednesday to face accusations of trafficking and supply of doping substances, the newspaper added, citing police sources.

He is the third person to be arrested in the anti-doping investigation dubbed “Operation Rial,” following the arrest on Sunday of Somalian coach Jama Aden and Moroccan physiotherapist Ouarid Mounir.

All three men were expected to attend the court hearing.

UPDATE: Following the hearing on June 23, El Pais reported that the three men were released on bail but ordered to surrender their passports and to report to the court every month.

Lawyers for the men are planning to appeal the court’s decision, the paper added.

However, a Facebook post purportedly from Aden’s family and which has been shared on social media, said Aden and Balla had been released without charge.

Police raid

AEPSAD confirmed reports in the Spanish media that the drug EPO had been found in Aden’s Sabadell hotel room following a police raid, the BBC said.

Aden is the coach of  Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who is tipped to win gold at this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Genzebe Dibabe in 2013
Genzebe Dibabe in 2013

The IAAF issued a statement earlier this week following Sunday’s raid.

“(Aden’s arrest) 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,” it said.

The Qatar Olympic Committee was unavailable to comment.

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