ICYMI: Jama Aden Has Been Acquitted By a Spanish Court on All Doping Charges Stemming from 2016 Hotel Raid

More than six years ago, famed distance coach Jama Aden as well as physiotherapist Ouarid Mounir were arrested in Spain following “four weeks of round-the-clock surveillance” by Spanish police at the request of the IAAF and the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency. That story received a lot of coverage at the time, and in subsequent years Aden has largely retreated from public view. What hasn’t gotten any publicity, at least in the English press, is what happened last November: Aden and Ouarid were acquitted on all charges in Spanish court.

Aden, who is most famous for coaching Taoufik Makhloufi to 2012 Olympic 1500 gold and Genzebe Dibaba to the 1500m world record in 2015, and Mounir were arrested as part of Operación Rial, which saw the Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police force) and Spanish anti-doping authorities raid the Hotel Arrahona in Sabadell, Spain, where Aden was staying with a group of athletes. Athletes at the hotel at the time included Dibaba, 2014 World Indoor 1500m champion Ayanleh Souleiman, 2008/2010 World Indoor 800m champion Abubaker Kaki and even Genzebe’s older sister Tirunesh Dibaba, the 12-time global champion and one of the greatest distance runners in history (but not someone who was coached by Aden). Multiple press reports say the authorities found pre-filled syringes of EPO and other doping materials.

During the raid on June 20, 2016, police did not find EPO in Aden’s room, but they did find EPO in the room of one of Aden’s athletes, Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla of Qatar, a 1:43 800m runner who placed 6th at the 2015 World Championships. After Balla was initially cleared by the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Qatar Athletics Federation, the AIU appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, which found Balla guilty of possession of a prohibited substance (EPO) and banned him for four years. Balla, at least so far, is the only person who has been convicted on doping charges stemming from the raid.

The 2019 CAS decision in the Balla case also revealed some strange behavior by Aden in the days leading up to the raid. On multiple occasions during the surveillance prior to the raid, Aden was observed leaving the hotel at night to dispose of syringes, which he would dismantle into separate parts and throw away into separate refuse containers. Aden also disposed of medications such as CALCO 50 (calcitonin), which were not banned under the WADA Code but were illegal to buy in Spain.

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According to Marca, the police found four medications not authorized for sale in Spain:

  • Methycobal (anemia medicine)
  • Maginjectable (magnesium)
  • Calco (calcitonin)
  • Aktover

Aden and Mounir were ultimately charged by the Spanish authorities with two criminal offenses:

1) Supplying, facilitating, and administering banned substances to athletes by a method prohibited by the Spanish law; and

2) Supplying, facilitating, and administering to athletes medicines/drugs that are not authorised in Spain, the consumption of which poses a serious risk to health.

Jama Aden in 2016, via Aden’s Facebook page

An Athletics Integrity Unit spokesperson told LetsRun that both men were acquitted of both charges “after the judge found there was insufficient proof to sustain the charges.”

According to Spanish newspaper Marca, the judge in the case said that “although the exculpatory versions given by the defendants are not credible in some aspects, which incur several contradictions, appreciating certain suspicions that could support the police and investigative investigation, they have not been enough to sustain their sentence. It could not be determined the existence of an organization or network.”

During the raid, 28 of the 30 athletes staying in the hotel (not all of whom were coached by Aden) were tested by the IAAF (which became known as World Athletics in 2019). None of the tests were positive. According to the AIU spokesperson, “World Athletics was involved as a private party in support of the Public Prosecutor’s case [against Aden and Mounir] and one of its employees gave evidence at the trial.” The prosecutor elected not to appeal against the verdict.


This Story May (Still) Not Be Over

Aden has not been as visible on the elite running scene in recent years as many of his top athletes from the 2010s have aged or fallen out of the sport. And while he no longer faces criminal charges in Spain and his €50,000 bail was returned to him by the Spanish authorities, it is still possible Aden could be charged with an anti-doping rule violation by the AIU stemming from the 2016 raid.

“Given the decision of the court, the AIU will fully review the evidentiary file before determining whether the matter should be closed or whether there is any case to answer under the applicable World Athletics Rules,” an AIU spokesperson told LetsRun.com.

The not guilty verdict for Aden may not satisfy many distance aficionados. Makhloufi has never been charged with or banned for an anti-doping rules violation, but he made a remarkable improvement under Aden in 2012, going from someone who had never made a global final to winning a dominant 1500 gold at the London Olympics. In 2020, long after Makhloufi had parted ways with Aden, French runner Jimmy Gressier said he found doping paraphernalia after looking through Makhloufi’s bag; Makhloufi, 35, has not raced since. In 2015, France’s Laila Traby, another of Aden’s athletes, was banned for four years after testing positive for EPO. Also that year, Qatari runner Hamza Driouch, whom Aden coached to the world junior 1500m title as a 17-year-old in 2012, was banned for two years for Athlete Biological Passport abnormalities. He initially blamed Aden for doping him, then retracted the claims.

After the Aden doping raid, the late American-Peruvian David Torrence told Runner’s World that he was one of multiple people involved with Aden’s group who had shared concerns about Aden with the IAAF. Torrence, a 2016 Olympian who was coached by Aden in 2014, told Runner’s World he was “95 percent sure” what was happening in Aden’s group was illegal.

Tal about the not-guilty verdice in the Aden case on our messageboard: ICYMI: Jama Aden Has Been Acquitted By a Spanish Court on All Doping Charges Stemming from 2016 Hotel Raid.

From the LRC archives

2016 LRC Everything You Need to Know About The Jama Aden Doping Raid That Took Place With Three Dibaba Sisters Being Present

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