3 Ethiopian Track Athletes Found

ethiopianUPDATE: Confirmed by UO Police Department – Three of 4 missing Ethiopian athletes are safe in Beaverton. Missing persons case active on fourth. Latest on KEZI 9 News at 5 and 6 p.m.

EUGENE, Ore. — New information is surfacing about the four missing Ethiopian track athletes who disappeared from the World Junior Track and Field championships this weekend.

Investigators think they may have pinpointed their location.

University of Oregon police say they believe the athletes are in the Portland area visiting friends and family.

“The three women are all over 18 and then the one juvenile male who is 17,” said Kelly McIver, UOPD spokesman.

The athletes were reported missing Saturday morning.

“They had not checked into their residence hall room when they were expected to, and so that’s where the report originally came from,” McIver said.

Since the report, UO police have been working with the FBI and homeland security to try to locate them.

Investigators say they believe the missing persons are still in Oregon.

“What we have heard is that they are reportedly in the Portland area visiting family friends of some kind,” McIver said.

UOPD says although they have spoken on the phone with people who claim the four athletes are safe, it still poses a challenge.

“We’ve can’t verify identities over the phone, so that’s where we need, that extra step of people being able to step up and show their identification, show their faces to some kind of government agency or police department,” McIver said.

Until identities can be confirmed, investigators are treating this as a missing persons case. Police say the team is leaving with our without the team members, who can stay if they choose.

“They’re here on a visa. They’re here legally. We don’t have an interest in anything other than making sure they’re safe, so we just want to make sure that they can come forward, verify that they’re safe and secure, and then they can go about their business,” McIver said.

Speculations have come up that the four athletes may be trying to seek asylum, but police say they can’t confirm that. UOPD says with international events like the World Juniors, incidents like this are always a possibility, and they do discuss how to handle it if it were to happen.