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|August 22, 2000||
Doping set to dominate Olympic buildupAdrian Warner in London
The two-year ban on former Olympic 100 metres champion Linford Christie has thrown the controversial subject of performance-enhancing drugs into the spotlight less than a month before the start of the Sydney Games.
The 1992 Barcelona gold medallist is the first winner of the men's Olympic 100 metres title to be suspended since Canadian Ben Johnson, who tested positive at the 1988 Seoul Games and was stripped of his medal.
British athletics officials, who so often have spoken out against drug abuse in the past and called for tougher penalties, saw the now retired Christie and compatriots Doug Walker and Gary Cadogan handed two-year suspensions by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) arbitration panel on Monday.
The cases have highlighted how complicated the issue of drugs in sport has become since Johnson tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol 12 years ago.
Then it appeared relatively simple. Now, cases are dominated by intense legal battles, sometimes in the civil courts, and complicated scientific discussions.
The steroid nandrolone has caused more controversy in the sport in the last two years than any other substance.
Christie, Walker and Cadogan failed drug tests in the space of four months in late 1998 and early 1999, but were subsequently cleared of doping by their national body UK Athletics.
The case hinged on the value of research at Aberdeen University.
The scientists' key argument was that the ingestion of dietary supplements, that may not themselves contain prohibited substances, combine with vigorous exercise to cause a high concentration of nandrolone metabolites in body fluids.
The IAAF said its arbitration panel had "carefully considered" the evidence of the "Aberdeen paper".
"The Arbitration Panel decided that no conclusion could be drawn at this stage of the Aberdeen research to exonerate the athletes," it said.
"The evidence was not convincing," IAAF general secretary Istvan Gyulai said. "The study might be regarded as an important scientific study in the future, but at this intermediate stage, it was impossible to draw the same conclusions."
The nandrolone issue is not going to disappear and could even be the subject of meetings during the Sydney Games which open on September 15.
Olympic officials always hope for Games which are not overshadowed by talk of drugs. They are unlikely to get them this time. The next month is set to be dominated by the subject.
German Dieter Baumann, who won the 5,000 metres at the Barcelona Games, is involved in a similar case after testing positive for nandrolone last November.
Baumann, who denies any wrongdoing and says his toothpaste was spiked, has been cleared by his national body but his case has also been referred to the IAAF's arbitration panel.
Britain's 400 metres runner Mark Richardson also faces an IAAF arbitration hearing in the next month after UK athletes cleared him of taking nandrolone in July thanks to the Aberdeen study.
UK Athletics chief David Moorcroft said he believed the Richardson case may even be heard in Sydney around September 15 and 16.
"That is a horrendous situation. It is a day after the start of the Games," he said. "Think of the media attention."
Mail Sports Editor
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