By Elias Meseret
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia must carry out extensive doping tests by November or face further action by the World Anti-Doping Agency and a possible ban by the IAAF, track and field officials in the country said Thursday.
Ethiopia will now attempt to test between 150 and 200 athletes, and will start as soon as next week, national athletics team doctor Ayalew Tilahun said.
"We are told that we could be banned from the IAAF if we don't comply with the request," Ayalew told reporters in Addis Ababa.
Results of the tests must be provided to WADA and athletics governing body the IAAF, he said.
Ethiopian Athletics Federation head Alebachew Nigussie said there was no threat of a ban from this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, adding "but that doesn't also mean we need to relax."
The demand for extensive testing confirms major problems with anti-doping controls in Ethiopia, a top distance-running power, following serious recent doping scandals for track and field in Russia and Kenya.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe last month identified Ethiopia as one of five countries with an anti-doping program in "critical care." Kenya, Morocco, Belarus and Ukraine were also identified as problem countries by Coe.
Amid the scandals in East African neighbor Kenya, Ethiopia last month suspended three runners for doping and is investigating at least another three. In total, at least nine Ethiopians are currently under suspicion, with an undisclosed number being investigated by the IAAF.
WADA officials will visit Ethiopia on June 3 and Coe is also expected to visit around that time, Ayalew said.
Failure to carry out the mass testing and bring other parts of Ethiopia's anti-doping program up to scratch could lead to Ethiopia being declared non-compliant with WADA's code, Ayalew said, and that could prompt the IAAF to act.
Russia was banned from international competition following a WADA-commissioned investigation found serious problems with its anti-doping controls.
Kenya has missed two deadlines to strengthen its program and is facing being declared non-compliant with its rules by WADA at the global anti-doping body's board meeting on May 12.