Gold medal favourite Mariem Alaoui Selsouli faces Games expulsion and lifetime ban
MOROCCAN runner Mariem Alaoui Selsouli, the fastest 1500m runner in the world this year and a hot favourite for Olympic gold, faces expulsion from the London Games and a lifetime ban from athletics after failing a drug test for the second time in her career.
Selsouli, 28, had shocked the middle-distance running world by recording the fastest 1500m for six years when she triumphed at the Paris Diamond League meeting on July 6 in 3?min 56.15?sec.
Her performance, which obliterated her previous personal best by more than 4½ seconds, provoked widespread suspicion because it came less than a year after she returned from a two-year doping ban after testing positive for the red blood cell-boosting erythropoietin (EPO) in 2009.
On Monday it was reported that Selsouli had tested positive after her Paris race for the diuretic furosemide, a banned masking agent. If the doping violation is confirmed, Selsouili faces an automatic life ban for a second doping offence.
The Moroccan, who won the 1500m silver at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in March, was also the fastest woman in the world this year over 3,000m and was considered a medal contender for the 5,000m in London, as well as the 1500m. There will be relief among Olympic organisers that she is now out of the equation.
Her positive drug test is just the latest in a long line of doping controversies to hit women’s middle-distance running.
Before the Beijing Olympics, seven female Russian athletes, including five middle-distance runners, were handed two-year bans for tampering with their urine samples.
One of them, two-time world 1500m champion Tatyana Tomashova, will be back in Olympic action in London.
Earlier this month, three more Russian women – a marathon runner and two 800m specialists – were banned for two years over abnormal patterns in their biological profiles.
Selsouli’s second violation is certain to fuel the debate over whether drug cheats should receive stiffer penalties than the standard sanction of a two-year suspension.
Lord Moynihan, the British Olympic Association chairman, has led calls for a minimum four-ban for first-time offenders.
The International Olympic Committee is currently investigating five suspect blood samples that were stored after the 2004 Athens Olympics and which have recently been re-tested using more sophisticated detection equipment.
Hugh Robertson, the British Olympics Minister, welcomed the news that the drug-testing procedures appeared to be working well ahead of the Olympics.
“We are catching people and it is better to weed them out early and, if not early, then years afterwards,” he said. “The worst situation is if you don’t get them at all.”