A senior Ethiopian anti-doping official has said that nine of the country's runners have been placed under investigation for alleged doping. The names of the athletes in question have not been released.
Solomon Meaza, the general secretary of Ethiopia's anti-doping agency told the Associated Press on Monday that five of the athletes that had returned "suspicious" results in tests were "top athletes."
"To be clear, some banned (substances) were found in the five athletes," he said. "They will be summoned and asked if they have taken any banned substances (or) chemicals."
Due to the ongoing investigation, Solomon declined to give any further details, such as the athletes' names, what they were suspected of using, or when the testers were carried out. He also stressed that further testing would have to be carried out before any guilt could be established.
However, he did say that "there is a real concern when the upcoming investigations arrive."
Solomon added, that the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) had requested the contact details of the four lesser-known athletes that are under suspicion, and that this had been provided through the World Anti-Doping Agency.
If the Ethiopian runners are found guilty of doping, this will be just the latest blow to athletics, following major scandals in Russia and Kenya in the buildup to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Last November, Russia was banned from international track-and-field competition following allegations of state-sponsored doping. Kenya could face a similar sanction after four senior track officials were suspended by the IAAF pending an investigation into allegations that they tried to cover up doping. Kenya has also failed to fall in line with global anti-doping rules and faces an April deadline to sort out its failing anti-doping program.
Abeba Aregawi suspended
Solomon's revelation came on the same day that the IAAF announced that Ethiopian-born former 1,500-meter world champion Abeba Aregawi, who now competes for Sweden, had failed a doping test and had been suspended pending an investigation.