Athletics: Athens drugs debate heats up

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The Independent Online
A woman distance runner was dropped yesterday from the German team for the World Championships, which start in Athens on Saturday, as the International Amateur Athletic Federation began what is expected to be a charged drugs debate on the opening day of its two-day congress in the Greek capital.

Officials of the German Athletic Federation said Petra Wassiluk, 27, a 10,000 metres runner, had tested positive for excessive amounts of the stimulant caffeine in Spain last April. Wassiluk was omitted even though her ban would have finished by the start of the Championships.

As news of the latest drug cases emerged, a leading official said a number of countries were adopting a hypocritical attitude towards drug abuse. The official, who declined to be identified, said the offending nations claimed they were major anti-doping campaigners but were themselves soft on abusers. "What they do here is like dressing the shop window by speaking out against drug abuse," he said. "Then they protect their athletes. The problem at the moment is not what ban is imposed but that doping is still going on worldwide."

European officials have proposed that the compulsory ban for serious drugs such as steroids be cut from four to two years because the longer sentence is regarded as too tough under the civil law of some countries.

Britain was expected to be one of the main opponents of the change when the debate resumes today.

Venuste Niyongabo, Burundi's Olympic 5,000 metres champion, has withdrawn from the World Championships after struggling with a leg injury.