Amdouni im Nationaldress in Berlin 2018 © imago images / Bildbyran Foto: Bildbyran

28:51 min | 03.10.2019 | Das Erste

DOPING TOP SECRET - Trace to North Africa

Two years ago, the International governing body of Athletics, the IAAF, took Morocco off its watchlist. ARD research shows however, that the country still is very much a paradise for dopers.

Doping

Did French European Champion Amdouni dope?

von Hajo Seppelt, Grit Hartmann, Edmund Willison, Jörg Winterfeldt

ARD information leads to serious accusations against the Frenchman. In the course of the research, an informant received death threats. It is the second dubious case for France in the recent past.

Morhad Amdouni, 31, born in Corsica with Tunisian roots, had long been considered one of the upcoming stars of French athletics. Yet Achilles' tendon issues, knee problems and sciatica stunted his career development. It was only last year at the age of 30 that Amdouni made a huge leap. At the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, he won gold over 10,000 metres and bronze over 5,000 metres.

But now there is much to suggest that his spectacular late career development is far less miraculous than it first seemed.

The ARD Doping Editorial Team is in possession of Whatsapp exchanges involving Amdouni that arouses suspicion as to whether the Frenchman could have been doping in 2017. Insiders from the French Athletics Federation are already suspicious of his performances and his latest actions have only added to the scepticism. After weeks of training in Qatar, and as his teammates gradually arrived for the World Championships in Doha, Amdouni suddenly left the desert in a hurry. The timing was striking.

Shortly before, the ARD had requested an interview with Amdouni, through the French federation, to confront him about his suspicious activities. Before the request, Amdouni had already learned of ARD’s investigation into him. Amdouni then withdrew from the World Championships in Doha. The official reason: injury.

13 different whereabouts within 15 days

Amdouni at the Diamond League-Meeting in Brussles 2015 © imago images / Belga Foto: Belga

Despite taking part in only a few competitions and very little preparation, Amdouni celebrated his biggest wins in the past few years.

For the French Athletics Federation, the process is tantamount to a catastrophe. It was only in spring that the country's best female marathon runner Clemence Calvin fled from French doping control officers in Morocco. The circumstances are somewhat controversial, the evidence debated, but doping authorities emphatically believe that Calvin wanted to prevent doping control by any means. Calvin had changed her whereabouts 13 times within 15 days. Disciplinary proceedings are underway.

In Amdouni's case, the French federation stated that it is "not aware of any wrongdoing related to the use of doping substances on behalf of the French athlete Morhad Amdouni".

The first question marks about Amdouni already arose from his competition schedule in past years. In 2016, he competed often - the IAAF, the international athletics federation, list him as racing 12 times. His activity then decreased rapidly to no more than three events per year. But with his new limited schedule, Amdouni achieved his greatest successes. Most recently he ran the Paris marathon in an impressive time of 2:09hrs. It was even his first marathon and he was apparently little prepared.

Doping experts consider a conspicuously low number of competitions combined with great successes to be one of many suspicious parameters in the typical profile of a doper.

"One pack of EPO, one pack of growth hormone"

Amdouni also likes to train alone or in small groups. And his preferred training destinations are usually in remote or faraway places. Sometimes the Frenchman trains in Doha, sometimes in the Moroccan plateau of Ifrane or in South Africa and other times in Corsica. For doping control officers, such athletes are extremely difficult to locate for testing. "It is well known that it is more complicated for an agency like ours to set up doping controls abroad than on our own national territory," says Mathieu Teoran, Secretary General of the French Anti-Doping Agency AFLD, "it is more expensive and requires more information."

The ARD Doping Editorial Team have come into possession of Whatsapp communications between Amdouni and a dealer who claims to have procured doping substances for the Frenchman. In the exchanges he demands Amdouni to pay him the remainder of the money he is owed. "If I don't get my money tomorrow, Mourad, you'll be sorry and you'll be the loser because I don't like people taking advantage of me," it says, "just so you know you bought a pack of EPO and you got a pack of growth hormone!!!!". And further: "I'll tell you again, I want my money tomorrow, 150 Euro." The different spelling of the first name can be explained by the fact that in North Africa the Frenchman is also called Mourad Hamdouni.

"They kill for 1,000 euros"

The person who wrote these messages has sworn, under oath, to the ARD Doping Editorial Team that they are authentic. In addition, other sources have confirmed to the ARD Doping Editorial Team that the mobile number shown on the recipient’s Whatsapp profile belongs to Morhad Amdouni.

Last week, when the ARD Doping Editorial Team tried to question Amdouni about the alleged communications accusations at his outside Paris, he did not want to answer. "It's simply incredible to talk about such things, there's nothing," he said in the stairwell, "there's nothing to say about it, there's nothing."

As events progressed, another Whatsapp exchange suggested that doping circles are akin to organised crime. Immediately after Amdouni's confrontation outside of Paris, an informant received unmistakable threats by Whatsapp from Amdouni's close circle. 

"You are in your own world (name redacted) - in France there are Russians, Romanians ... who kill for 1000,- Euro and you, you play with it ...  One day all the athletes, whom you have done evil to, will turn against you ... there were some of them ... that‘s life ..."

The informant replied: "If someone does something to me, I don't regret anything." And: "(name redacted) I'm not afraid of anyone."

The person threatening the informant then wrote: "Ok then work together with the anti-doping agency like before"

Amdouni himself later replied, by email, with only a brief statement in French and German despite being asked 16 questions. He did not respond specifically to any of the questions. He wrote that he was concerned about "avoiding any misinterpretation" and spoke of an "unfounded statement" against his person. According to information from the ARD Doping Editorial Team, the French police are now also interested in his case.

 

Dieses Thema im Programm:

Das Erste | Sportschau | Leichtathletik-WM 2019 in Doha | 03.10.2019 | 16:00 Uhr

Stand: 03.10.19 11:00 Uhr