Former World 1,500m champion Abeba Aregawi has tested positive for a banned substance.
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and the Swedish Athletics Federation confirmed on Tuesday that the 25-year-old had withdrawn from all competitions following an out-of-competition urine test, believed to have been done in Addis Adaba in January.
The development comes in the wake of reports that nine Ethiopian athletes, including five “top athletes”, were under investigation for doping by the Ethiopia Anti-Doping Agency (EADA).
EADA secretary-general Solomon Meaza said his agency is investigating the five athletes he described as high-profile after they returned “suspicious” results in doping tests.
Meaza said the IAAF has requested contact details for the other four and the world body is investigating them.
Meaza declined to name the athletes or give details of the substances they are suspected of using as investigations are under way.
“There is a real concern when the upcoming investigations arrive,” said Meaza.
The Ethiopian cases will be another blow to the sport following major doping scandals in Russia and Kenya in the build-up to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has blacklisted Kenya as non-compliant, with unspecified action set to be taken against the country in April if the country will not have adopted structures to address doping issues.
On Aregawi, an IAAF spokesman said that following notification of the laboratory finding, the World Indoor champion has voluntarily withdrawn from competition until the investigations into the laboratory finding are completed.
Already, Aregawi has requested the analysis of the B sample and that will be conducted.
“The IAAF and the Swedish Athletic Federation will not make any further comment until completion of the result management procedure.”
Earlier reports had suggested that the Ethiopian-born Aregawi, who has competed for Sweden since 2012, had tested positive.
Aregawi, who is also the European championship silver medallist, was due to face the world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba in a much anticipated race over a mile in Stockholm on February 17, but pulled out citing a back injury.
The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which broke the Aregawi story, quoted Swedish Athletics general-secretary Stefan Ollson, who said: “We are totally opposed to all forms of cheating, doping and illicit funds. We have a zero tolerance, and this is totally unacceptable.”
Aregawi won gold at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, when she ran 4:02.67 to win the 1,500m final, while Kenya’s Hellen Obiri won bronze. Aregawi placed sixth at the World championships in Beijing last August.