Ethiopian runner Zerfe Wondemagegn banned 5 years for doping

MONACO -- A runner from Ethiopia who reached the 3,000-meter steeplechase final at the Tokyo Olympics, and narrowly missed the world championship podium last year, has been banned for five years after testing positive for two banned substances.

Zerfe Wondemagegn admitted breaking anti-doping rules after samples she gave flagged up traces of testosterone and another substance, EPO, which can help athletes' blood transport more oxygen, the Athletics Integrity Unit said in a ruling published on Monday.

Wondemagegn was eighth at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and fourth at the 2023 world championships in Budapest. Two of the three samples in her case were taken while she was in Hungary for the event and she has been disqualified from the competition.

The AIU ruling said it received e-mailed testimony from a doctor saying Wondemagegn had been given EPO as medicine to treat severe anemia and a kidney infection but that it "remained satisfied" she had broken anti-doping rules. The organization added that it had received a signed admission from the athlete last week.

Wondemagegn's is the latest in a series of doping cases in distance running.

The 2022 world champion in women's steeplechase, Norah Jeruto, is facing a doping hearing in June, five weeks before the Paris Olympics. World Athletics is appealing against an earlier decision to clear the runner, who was born in Kenya and competes for Kazakhstan. She has argued ulcers and a bout of COVID-19 can explain irregular blood test results.

Also Monday, the AIU reported a three-year ban for Kenyan road runner Celestine Chepchirchir, who tested positive for testosterone.