- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

It is easy to understand why 2004 Olympian Dan Browne would come to the Army Ten-Miler two weeks ago. The West Point grad is part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and was taking a shot at winning the event for a fourth time.

It is not so easy to understand why other world-class runners would compete in a 10-mile race with no prize money or elite status while sacrificing a paycheck elsewhere during the heat of the fall racing season.

It’s hard to figure why a guy like Ethiopian Alene Reta - who flew solo for the last seven miles of the Army Ten-Miler and crushed Browne’s five-year-old record - would travel four-plus hours from New York and give up potential prize money elsewhere to race here.

It’s also hard not to criticize Reta for changing his name after being banned by the International Association of Athletic Federations from September 2001 to September 2003 after a positive drug test.

Competing under the name Alene Emere, he was on a roll in 2001, racing on a corporate team in Japan while winning the Japanese national championships at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. On the U.S. road circuit, he won the Crazy 8s 8K and finished high in the money at the Peachtree Road Race 10K (second) and Boilermaker 15K (third), both part of the Professional Road Running Organization circuit.

After the ban, he was no longer eligible to compete in the PRRO because the circuit would not admit any athlete banned for doping. But that didn’t stop Reta from gaining entry into the 2005 Peachtree race under the name Amara Leta; he earned $1,500 for a sixth-place finish. He was promptly disqualified when the alias was discovered.

Since then, he has been racing under the name Alene Reta, winning countless races and fairly good prize money. His passport reads Alene Emere Reta, close to the Alene Emere he was using back when he took the bronze in the 10,000 meters in the 1998 World Junior Championships in Athletics.

Reta was not available for comment at the Ten-Miler, but he has told reporters he did not purposefully take illegal drugs.

“I needed asthma medication,” Larry Moko of the Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator quoted Reta as saying after a race in 2008. “The doctor gave me tablets. It was banned; that was the problem. It was hard. I don’t have any experience with drugs. I’m sick, I go to the doctor and he gives me medicine. … After that, I don’t take nothing.”

Reta is not the only Ethiopian athlete who goes by several names, sometimes using the family name and sometimes the father’s name. Combine that with all the misspelled names their agents send in on race registration forms, and many of these athletes are hard to track.

But still, why would a professional runner of Reta’s caliber travel to the District for free when there were hundreds of money races on the same day elsewhere? To beat a soft elite field? To place first in the nation’s second-largest 10-miler with its 21,524 finishers? It certainly bolsters the resume, but not the wallet.

She’s in - An exception can be made for Veena Reddy’s absence two weeks ago as the Army Ten-Miler defending champion. The Arlington resident was in Minneapolis that morning, running a 2012 Olympic trials-qualifying 2:42:06 under her new name, Veena Reddy-Borghuis.

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