This weekend, African athletics takes center stage at the 2016 African Athletics Championships in Durban, South Africa. The continental championship brings together athletes from across Africa every two years and dates back to the first edition, in 1979 in Dakar. On this week's Matchpoint Top 5 segment, let's take a look at the top five winners of the championship by country.
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World marathon champion Mare Dibaba is one of six athletes who will represent Ethiopia in the marathon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The Ethiopian Athletics Federation has confirmed its selections – along with several reserves – for both the men’s and women’s marathon.
The men’s team comprises the winners of three of the world’s biggest marathons so far this year: Dubai Marathon champion Tesfaye Abera, Boston Marathon champion Lemi Berhanu and Tokyo Marathon champion Feyisa Lelisa.
Three-time Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele, who finished third at this year’s London Marathon, has been named as a reserve, along with world silver medallist Adhane Yemane and 2013 world silver medallist Lelisa Desisa.
Dibaba, who equalled her lifetime best of 2:19:52 when winning last year’s Xiamen Marathon, is joined on the women’s team by two-time Berlin Marathon champion Aberu Kebede and three-time Dubai Marathon winner Aselefech Mergia.
Dubai Marathon champion Tirfi Tsegaye, who clocked a world-leading 2:19:41 earlier this year, and Tigist Tufa, who won the 2015 London Marathon and finished second in this year’s race, are the reserves for the women’s team.
ETHIOPIAN MARATHON TEAM FOR RIO
Men: Tesfaye Abera, Lemi Berhanu, Feyisa Lelisa
Reserves: Kenenisa Bekele, Adhane Yemane, Lelisa Desisa
Women: Mare Dibaba, Aberu Kebede, Aselefech Mergia
Reserves: Tigist Tufa, Tirfi Tsegaye
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Ethiopia must carry out mass doping tests on up to 200 athletes by November or be the latest to 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 attempt to test between 150 and 200 athletes over the next seven months and will start as soon as next week, national track 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 said at a news conference in Addis Ababa.
Results of the drug tests must be provided to WADA and the IAAF, he said. The government has provided $300,000 to fund the testing.
Ayalew told The Associated Press in a separate interview that Ethiopia could be banned from all sports if its doping program is not significantly improved.
Ethiopian Athletics Federation head Alebachew Nigussie, left, national track team doctor Ayalew Tilahun, center, and national anti-doping office head Mengistu Abebe, right, speak at a press conference about current doping issues in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday, April 7, 2016. Ethiopia must carry out mass doping tests on up to 200 athletes by November or be the latest to 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. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene)
"The struggle is critical," he said.
WADA officials will visit Ethiopia to assess the progress on June 3 and IAAF President Sebastian Coe is also expected to visit around that time, Ayalew said.
Ethiopian Athletics Federation head Alebachew Nigussie said there was no threat of a ban from this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, adding "but that doesn't also mean we need to relax."
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 separately by the IAAF.
Also, Ethiopia-born former 1,500-meter world champion Abeba Aregawi, who now competes for Sweden, tested positive for meldonium and faces a ban. Aregawi reportedly failed the test in Ethiopia, where she spends much of her time.
Failure to carry out the extensive testing and bring other parts of the anti-doping program up to scratch could lead to Ethiopia being declared non-compliant with WADA's code, bringing in play a possible sterner punishment from the IAAF.
Ethiopia also needs to urgently upgrade its national anti-doping office. Ayalew told the AP that when WADA officials came to assess the office in December they were shocked by the poor standard of the facilities and gave it a rating of "zero."
Source: By ELIAS MESERET, ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Ethiopia, one of five countries under the watchful eye of the IAAF over concern for their drug-testing systems, dominated the long races to finish second at the world indoor championships that ended on Sunday.
Led by world record holder Genzeba Dibaba, the African nation swept the top two spots in the women's 3,000 meters and claimed gold in the men's 3,000m on Sunday.
The strong showing came a day after Ethiopian-born athletes took the first four places in the women's 1,500m.
"I think it is the altitude and hard training," Dibaba told Reuters when asked why Ethiopian men and women are so impressive in the distance events.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Ukraine and Belarus have been identified by IAAF president Sebastian Coe as countries in need of "critical care" because of their drug-test systems.
"Ethiopia and Morocco -- as a matter of urgency -- need a robust testing program put in place," Coe said.
"Kenya, Ukraine and Belarus need to get compliant by the end of the year."
The countries are in no immediate danger of being banned from athletics and missing the Olympics, Coe said.
But six Ethiopian athletes are being investigated for doping, officials have said.
Ethiopian-born Swede Abeba Aregawi, a former world indoor champion, also has been banned for a positive doping test.
"Doping is not good news for athletes," said Dibaba, who outran countrywoman Meseret Defar for the 3,000m title.
Yomif Kejelcha gave Ethiopia their other gold of the day, defeating American Ryan Hill and Kenyan Augustine Choge in the men's 3,000m.
On Saturday, Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who was born in Ethiopia, led former countrywomen Dawit Seyaum, Gudaf Tsegay and Axumawit Embaye in the women's 1,500m.
"It is so sad that people use that," Hassan said of the Ethiopian doping problem.
Kenya, usually a powerhouse in the middle distance race, won only two medals in the championships.
Choge said he hoped his nation soon passed anti-doping legislation.
"They really need to pull up their socks so the corruption will be killed forever," he told Reuters.
More than 40 Kenyan athletes including top marathoner Rita Jeptoo have been banned for doping in the past three years and three athletics officials have been suspended over corruption allegations.
"It's a fairly corrupt time to be in the sport because of everything that is going on but I can only control what I can do," said British runner Tom Farrell.
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The five-year-old boy who captured the hearts of football fans across the globe with his Lionel Messi 'bag shirt' has finally received the real deal.
UNICEF confirmed on Thursday that Murtaza Ahmadi from Afghanistan had been sent a signed Argentina shirt by the World Player of the Year.
"I love Messi and my shirt says Messi loves me," Murtaza said upon receiving the 28-year-old's gift.
A photo of Murtaza wearing a blue and white plastic bag with Messi's name and number scrawled onto it went viral in January.
Earlier this month Murtaza's father, Arif Ahmadi, said: "Murtaza became a fan of Messi by watching television.
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