Athletes 'offended' by syringe letter

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The Independent Online
ATHLETES staying at the team hotel before yesterday's meeting between Britain and France in Glasgow have been offended by a request to dispose of any used syringes with care.

On checking into the Moat House International, members of both teams were given letters signed by a member of the hotel management, appealing to them to obtain "needle disposal bins" from the housekeeping department. The request made no reference to illegal drugs but mentioned the possibility of athletes requiring "medication".

Nevertheless, the implied suspicion of drug abuse took competitors aback. "I was horrified," said Melanie Neef, Scotland's European 400 metres champion. "I don't think it was aimed at the British team but I know they have had problems in the past. It's a shame that people keep associating drugs and athletics."

The hotel's general manager, Campbell Aird, described the request as "a prudent measure". He said that a chambermaid had been injured by a syringe some years ago following a visit by the Russian athletics team.

"We issue a similar letter when any sports group is in the hotel," he said. "We notice a heavier presence of syringes at such times ... people should have the ability to dispose of syringes in a proper manner. We must ensure staff safety."

The British Athletic Federation had no prior warning of the letter. But its spokesman, Tony Ward, commented: "It seemed to be a sensible precaution.