Gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney for the marathon race, he was the first person to achieve an Olympics-World Championships marathon double.
He won the Fukuoka marathon in Japan three times, first in 1999, followed by 2001 and 2002.
His victory at the 2001 World Championships was one second ahead of Kenya's Simon Biwott.
His wife, Elfenesh Alemu, was also an Olympian, competing at the 2004 games.
He and fellow Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie were among the eight medalists who made the 2000 Sydney Olympics one of the most successful showings for their native land.