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Weightlifter was best hope of medal

ANDREW DAVIES, one of the two weightlifters who returned home from Barcelona in disgrace yesterday, was Britain's best hope for a medal in the discipline.

His rise in the world rankings was spectacular. In 1987 he won a silver medal in the world junior championships and two years later, after a mediocre display in the Seoul Olympics, he became the first British weightlifter in modern times to win a medal in the world championships.

The second British weightlifter who failed a drugs test, Andrew Saxton, also aged 25, is not in the same class. He competed in the world junior championships in 1987 and finished eighth in the 100kg class, but has never managed to better that achievement.

The news of their ban shocked Den Welch, the Welsh national coach. 'To all of us, Andrew Davies was Mr Clean,' he said. 'It was not only the image and the personality; it was the feeling that he did not touch drugs. One has this feeling after many years. He was a model for the kids, and I can't really believe that that's happened to him.'

Shortly before the Olympics, Davies had insisted that he would never take drugs. 'It's not you who lift the weight, but the hormones,' he said of weightlifters who had taken drugs. 'You never know how good you are. That's why I would never touch them. It was a question of pride for myself and David Morgan (another leading Welsh weightlifter) to prove that we can do it without drugs.'

The news of Davies's positive test will have delivered a blow to his family, who helped him train full-time for the Olympics.

His mother, Nancy Davies, spoke two months prior to the Olympics of her shock in 1990, when two other Welsh weightlifters, Gareth Hynes and Ricky Chaplin, tested positive at the Commonwealth Games and were stripped of their medals.

'When the news broke in Auckland that there were two Welsh lifters who had tested positive, I never thought it could be Andrew,' she said. 'I know how careful he is with every medicine he takes. He will always go and talk to the doctor before he takes a drug. I didn't feel sorry for the lifters. The only people I felt sorry for were their families.'

Both weightlifters returned to Britain yesterday. Saxton, who proclaimed his innocence and announced that he would appeal against the verdict, was at his home in Oxford, while Davies, who lives near Newport in Gwent, was said to be staying with relatives in Torquay.

Drug taking has been rife in weightlifting in recent years and measures have been taken to try to clean up the sport.

According to International Weightlifting Federation rules, if more than two competitors from one country fail drug tests, that country can be banned from international competition. However, an IWF spokesman in Barcelona said that Britain was unlikely to be banned because the two failed a test run by their own Sports Council rather than the IWF.