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Ethiopia approves prison sentences for doping

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Haile Gebrselassie

Ethiopian running great Haile Gebrselassie is willing to send guilty dopers to jail to help stamp cheating out of athletics. The Ethiopian government recently approved sentencing athletes to jail time if found to have cheated in sport. 

“We need to be strict,” Gebreselassie said in an interview with The Independent. “There must be a tough punishment. When we do this, the rest of the world needs to be strong too.

“It’s really important to work together, not just the federations, but the event organisers, the athlete managers, everyone. We need to have honest athletes that forget about shortcuts; ones who believe in sweating, not taking. When athletes take drugs they may make money in the short -term, but in the long term, when they think about what they’ve done, they will regret it. They are directly cheating money out of the pockets of other athletes.”

Gebreselassie says that the Russian doping scandal is the wake-up call that sport needs to push to clean-up its act, and that strong punishments are the key to doing this. However, he also said that excluding Russia from competing in sport is also not the answer.

“My worry is for the feeling of the competition without Russia. Winning medals in athletics without defeating Russia… you cannot experience the same feeling. Imagine a football World Cup where you don’t have to defeat Germany, France or Italy. In athletics, winning races where you don’t have to defeat Russians or Kenyans, that’s not a real competition.”

Gebrselassie is intent on making competition clean again, but just as he was as an athlete, he wants standards to keep rising and competition to be fierce too.