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Musaab Balla

IAAF/Getty

Musaeb Balla

Updated on June 23 with information about the athletes’ court hearing.

Qatari athlete Musaeb Abdulrahman Balla has reportedly been arrested by Spanish police as part of an ongoing investigation into sports doping.

The runner, who became the first national to reach the finals of the  International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) last year, was detained by police, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported in a story that was tweeted by the anti-doping agency AEPSAD.

Sudanese-born Balla, 27, came sixth in the 800-meter track event at the World Championships in Beijing last summer.

He appeared in court in Sabadell outside Barcelona on Wednesday to face accusations of trafficking and supply of doping substances, the newspaper added, citing police sources.

He is the third person to be arrested in the anti-doping investigation dubbed “Operation Rial,” following the arrest on Sunday of Somalian coach Jama Aden and Moroccan physiotherapist Ouarid Mounir.

All three men were expected to attend the court hearing.

UPDATE: Following the hearing on June 23, El Pais reported that the three men were released on bail but ordered to surrender their passports and to report to the court every month.

Lawyers for the men are planning to appeal the court’s decision, the paper added.

However, a Facebook post purportedly from Aden’s family and which has been shared on social media, said Aden and Balla had been released without charge.

Police raid

AEPSAD confirmed reports in the Spanish media that the drug EPO had been found in Aden’s Sabadell hotel room following a police raid, the BBC said.

Aden is the coach of  Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, who is tipped to win gold at this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Genzebe Dibabe in 2013

Peter Iowe/Flickr

Genzebe Dibabe in 2013

The IAAF issued a statement earlier this week following Sunday’s raid.

“(Aden’s arrest) follows a lengthy investigation by the IAAF which began in 2013, working in close cooperation with Interpol, the Spanish authorities including the Spanish National Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD), Spanish police and other organisations.

“The IAAF will use all available resources and powers to protect clean athletes and the integrity of our sport. This includes targeting and investigating individuals and coaches who are intent on exploiting athletes and promoting the use of prohibited substances,” it said.

The Qatar Olympic Committee was unavailable to comment.

Thoughts?

All photos by Ray Toh

Undeterred by the heat, more than 5,000 sports fans cheered on their favorite athletes during the opening of the 2016 IAAF Diamond League last night.

During the event, which was held at the Suhaim bin Hamad stadium, six national records and four meeting records were smashed.

Highlights included Briton Eilidh Doyle’s performance, who ran the fastest time in the world this year during the 400m hurdles; Sandi Morris of the US winning the pole vault with a Diamond League record; and American Ameer Webb clocking a 19.85 career best in the 200m dash, breaking the meeting record set four years ago.

But locally, performances weren’t as stellar, with high jumper Mutaz Barshim clearing only 2.26m on this third attempt.

According to the Gulf Times, however, the athlete wasn’t disappointed:

“It’s all part of the plan. This being the Olympic year, I am taking things slow. Last year, I peaked early and by July I was practically dead. I am not going to repeat that mistake this year. The idea is to take things slow and steady. I thank the fans for cheering me on. I promise not to disappoint them in Rio.”

Did you check out the opener? Thoughts?

School hall on National Sport Day 2016

Ministry Education and Higher Education/Twitter

School hall on National Sport Day 2016

School sports halls and other facilities could be opened up for public use in the evenings in a bid to increase the choice of sports facilities for residents, particularly children and families, an education official has reportedly said.

Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education is due to sign an agreement with the Ministry of Culture and Sports “soon” to open up schools’ facilities after-hours, the Peninsula reported.

Speaking on National Sport Day earlier this week, it quotes education undersecretary Rabia Mohammed Al Kaabi as saying the deal was part of a wider initiative to encourage more people to exercise regularly.

“It is better to have daily sports activities according to the age and health condition of each person, instead of limiting such activities to a single day,” Al Kaabi added.

More than three-quarters of Qatar’s adult population is overweight and obesity rates among the country’s youth is rising fast.

Coupled with chronic health issues, including one of the highest diabetes rates in the world, authorities have launched a number of initiatives to encourage residents to become more active.

Thoughts?