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Athletics

Swedish European Cross Country Champion Banned For Four Years

Swedish Anti-Doping Board has banned an Eritrean-born Swedish European Cross Country Champion, Robel Fsiha, for four years for testing positive for artificial testosterone at training camp in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian.

Fsiha, who started running for Sweden at the end of 2018 after arriving as a refugee in 2013 from Eritrea, tested positive for the banned substance at a training camp in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on November 25 last year, less than two weeks before his triumph at the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon in the senior race.

The athlete was originally suspended on February 5 when his test result came back positive and was later told he could be stripped of his title.

The Swedish Anti-Doping Board has now reached a decision to suspend Fsiha for four years and chairman Åke Thimfors explained the process to SVT Sport.

“It is such a substance that, in principle, leads to suspension for four years,” Thimfors said.

“To get away with it, it is necessary to show to the doping board that you have not intentionally got it – he has not been able to prove it.”

All six members of the panel were unified in their decision.

The ban will be backdated to start on February 5 this year and conclude in 2024.

Fsiha has only two weeks to appeal the decision, with the deadline for his response being June 1.

Speaking to the Expressen, Fsiha had said he had “just ate a medicine tablet for colds”, but the Swedish Anti-Doping Board said he contradicted that excuse.

Thimfors added: “He had gotten himself a syringe and he didn’t know what it contained.”

David Fridell, a Board member of Fsiha’s club Spårvägen, said that it would not back him as an association in the appeal process.

Fridell said: “It’s probably about the indications we got during the process, that it would land like this, given the substance it was about and Robel’s attitude and explanation for it, therefore I am not very surprised even though it is still very tragic that we has ended up in this situation.”

Fsiha won the gold medal in Lisbon after pulling away from Aras Kaya of Turkey on the last lap, giving Sweden one of its two medals on the day, the other being a bronze in the senior women’s race for Samrawit Mengsteab.

If Fsiha is officially stripped of his title, Switzerland’s Julien Wanders will be promoted to the bronze-medal position behind new winner Kaya and Yemaneberhan Crippa of Italy.

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