Is Corruption Ruining Athletics in Ethiopia?

Hayle Ibrahimov (Azerbaijan) was formerly known as Haile Desta Hagos in Ethiopia

 The plague of corruption and bribes within the Ethiopian athletics milieu has lately increased dramatically. At the same pace, the tentacles of some pseudo brokers and agents from the outside are running deep into illicit business. 

The Ethiopian squad poor performance at the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland has turned into sheer disaster for the country. Now I wonder who is going to bear the responsibility for such failure. And who is going to be given the boot for such a mess ? 

In Bydgoszcz, Ethiopia recorded its worst results since time immemorial, winning just peanuts. Decades of dominance and honor have vanished within few yards.  And I say for good reason, the well organized Kenyan squad triumphed taking all four individual titles and all four team titles. 

To be honest, knowing the weakness of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation in this moment, I did’nt pin much confidence on the Ethiopian squad. Weakness and bribery all go along this time in Addis. It’s a sort of shameful honeymoon between the bribers and the corrupted, wherever they are. 

One cause of weakness is that most promising young Ethiopian athletes are being shopped around the world’s wealthiest nations for just a few bucks.  Who’s selling them? and who’s the big exploiter-money-maker in this trade? Unnoticed by the big public and the government, Ethiopian talents are sold to Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, and Kazakhstan; and perhaps tomorrow to some remote Eskimo land and why not to farther shores. 

Time has come to set appropriate measures to stop such unethical trade of people, and i hope a new breed of talents can be hatched between now and the next London Summer Olympic Games to represent the country at the highest level. Those talents must be protected and educated right from the cradle: now, not tomorrow. 

 The bottom line, however, is that such unethical trade is called simply “exploitation and slavery”. It is happening with kids in every season.  Talented teens who are’nt qualified to represent themselves are constantly misled by some greedy pseudo brokers, and are deceived to change their nationality for few bucks and for different flags. 

 This is just immoral. Anti-corruption and anti-bondage guidelines are essential in this moment for the country.  I suggest the EAF to work together with clubs and associations in Addis, in order to define strong rules and ethics how to stop modern times bondage. Clubs must be empowered to give their contribution by laying down a code of ethics for their own athletes and to strengthen the very fabric of clean sport management.  An “ethics commission” must be established to address scandals, stop bondage and promote transparency. 

 Andrea Dondi ( is Founder & Managing Director of Alfa Athletics Club, one of Ethiopia’s premier professional athletic club with offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Modena, Italy