By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia, one of five countries the IAAF governing body says is in "critical care" over its drug-testing systems, is to carry out doping tests on up to 200 athletes.
The east African nation, which alongside neighbor Kenya has for many years dominated distance running on the track and roads, became the latest country to have its credibility questioned when six of its athletes came under investigation in February for doping.
Last month the World Anti-Doping Agency gave Addis Ababa a 10-point guideline, that included raising its drug-testing capacity to WADA standards, to be implemented by November.
Ethiopian officials said failure to do so would lead to suspension.
"Seventy-five percent of the tests will be taken within three months," team doctor Ayalew Tilahun told Reuters on Thursday.
The bid to take urine and blood samples on 150 to 200 athletes from before the end of April will cost the country between 2.5 million birr ($117,359) to 3 million, he said.
"We will move fast. It is a question of life or death for the sport in our country," added Tilahun.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Ukraine and Belarus have been identified by IAAF president Sebastian Coe as countries in need of "critical care" because of weaknesses in their drug-testing systems.
Russia is currently banned from all athletics following the discovery of a state-sponsored doping regime and revelations of corruption.
Kenya, having missed a WADA deadline, has until May 12 to show it has adequate systems in place after a series of high-profile positive tests by athletes and the suspension of several leading officials.
Ethiopian Athletics Federation president Alebachew Nigussie told reporters that Coe and WADA director Rob Koehler are set to visit their country in early June to review progress.
"It was a relief that they permitted us to take part in the Olympics," said Tilahun, referring to the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.
"They are keeping a close eye and there won't be any excuse. We must work hard."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)