Ethiopia's record-breaker Ayana says doping suspicions unfair

Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:35pm EDT
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By Drazen Jorgic

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana was supposed to be enjoying a glorious Olympic debut after shattering the women's 10,000 meters world record last week but the occasion was somewhat marred by immediate questions about whether she was clean.

The same fate befell South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk, who smashed Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world record to win the 400m gold medal. Instantly, journalists inquired how was it possible to run so fast without doping.

Such is the atmosphere in modern-day athletics that any standout performance swiftly arouses suspicion and forces the athlete on the defensive.

Ayana, who on Friday added a 5,000m bronze to her 10,000m crown, said such reactions were not fair.

"There are many who suspect doping to have taken place whenever a race is won or a record is broken. I don't accept this," Ayana told Reuters in Rio.

After her memorable victory in the 10,000m in one of the greatest long-distance races ever, journalists asked Ayana how was it possible to cut 14 seconds off a record set by China's Wang Junxia 23 years ago that has come under scrutiny.

Wang was among a team coached by Ma Junren, who for years had been dogged by doping allegations.

Ma has consistently denied the drug claims and said his athletes reached such levels through hard work and natural remedies, including turtle's blood.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Final - Women's 5000m Final - Olympic Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 19/08/2016. Almaz Ayana (ETH) of Ethiopia competes  REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler