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European cross-country champion could be stripped of title for doping

The Eritrean-Swedish runner was suspended in February for anti-doping violations, and his B sample tests just came back positive

In February, Sweden’s Robel Fsiha was suspended for an anti-doping violation after he tested positive for an unnamed substance. Following the announcement of his suspension, the Eritrean-born runner requested his B sample be tested as well, but that, too, has come back positive, according to a report by Inside the Games. Fsiha won the 2019 European Cross-Country Championships in December—the first Swede to win gold in the event—but now he could have his title stripped.

Positive tests

Fsiha was tested in Ethiopia in November, a month before he won gold at the European Cross-Country Championships. The test was analyzed in Lausanne, Switzerland, and it registered as positive for a banned substance in February.

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When news of the positive test and Fsiha’s subsequent suspension broke, he told Expressen, a Swedish news outlet, that he hadn’t taken any banned substances, and that the only medication he’d taken recently had been for a cold. The Swedish Anti-Doping Agency is now investigating Fsiha’s case, and he could be stripped of his European championship and sentenced to a ban from competition for up to four years.

Breakout season

Before last season, Fsiha hadn’t had much of an impact in the athletics world, only competing in Swedish competitions from 2014 to 2018. In 2019, however, he competed internationally on several occasions, including at the world and European cross-country championships.

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At the worlds, which were held in Aarhus, Denmark, in March 2019, he placed 17th in the senior men’s race. He was the top European and fastest athlete not representing an African nation in the event. The top Canadian men that day in Denmark were Ben Preisner in 77th and Rory Linkletter in 82nd.

Several months later, in December, Fsiha travelled to Portugal for the European Cross-Country Championships. He won the 10K race in 29:59, 11 seconds ahead of second place. Switzerland’s Julien Wanders, the European 10K and half-marathon record-holder, came in fourth, 26 seconds behind Fsiha, and he will move into the bronze position if the Swede is stripped of his medal.