Tearful Modahl given four-year ban

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Shock waves registered throughout athletics yesterday as Diane Modahl was banned from competition for four years after being found guilty of a doping offence by the British Athletic Federation disciplinary committee.

Modahl, speaking clearly despite brimming tears, announced she would appeal against the decision by taking it to an independent panel which will also be convened by BAF. Should that prove unsuccessful, she will continue to try to clear her name. "I am horrified at this decision and at the prospect of the nightmare of the last four months continuing," she said.

But the unanimous conclusion by a five-strong panel, including three former international athletes, constitutes a damning verdict on the former Commonwealth Games 800 metres champion. No previous British athlete has appealed successfully against a dopingban.

It will also have dismayed many figures within British athletics, including Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and the team doctor, Malcolm Brown, who have gone out of their way to support her.

There was surprise too within the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which had reserved its right to question any British verdict in Modahl's favour. "I am quite frankly staggered at the Federation verdict, given the way Modahl has been portrayedand how vitriolically she has been defended by Malcolm Brown, Linford Christie and so many others," the IAAF spokesman, Christopher Winner, said. "This is devastating. If she can take drugs after the way she has been depicted then we are in real trouble."

Contrary to widespread speculation, Modahl's lawyers did not argue that the abnormally high level of testosterone shown up in her urine sample at a meeting in Lisbon on 18 June this year resulted from a medical condition.

"Scientific experts have concluded that although Diane does have two medical conditions which do not affect her general health, they would not have had a material effect on the case," Modahl's solicitor, Tony Morton-Hooper, said.

Her defence, he said, had rested primarily on the way her sample was handled and analysed by the Lisbon testing laboratory. Her advisers also registered "grace concern" that all the evidence from Lisbon had not been made available.

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