Athletics BAF defends Christie's drug- testing record

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The Independent Online
Athletics

MIKE ROWBOTTOM

The British Athletic Federation launched a vigorous defence of its fight against drug-taking yesterday amid criticism of out-of-competition testing involving Linford Christie. The federation's spokesman, Tony Ward, insisted it was the toughest in British sport and that Christie had been tested more than any other athlete.

ITV's World In Action programme claims tonight that the federation undermined its "no-notice" programme by failing to notify Sports Council testers of Christie's address.

Britain's team captain says in the programme: "I shall phone the BAF and ask why." But he adds: "It doesn't alter the fact that I'm tested a lot more than anyone else." Ward added: "It does not say in our rules there has to be a home address. It says there should be a contact address and we've always had a series of contact numbers for Linford Christie.

"The idea that a major athlete spends most of his time sitting at home is quite wrong. He will spend a large part of the year training in places like Australia or California. Linford was tested some 17 times last year, including out-of-competition tests at home and abroad.

"Overall, we test more competitors than any other sport by a long way - and carry out more out-of-competition tests than the rest put together. For some reason that puts us in the firing line and we are getting fed up with it. Perhaps other sports should be the target for the media glare."

The world long jump record set by Ivan Pedrosa in Sestriere on Saturday was called into question yesterday when several Italian newspapers cast doubt upon the official wind reading. The Cuban recorded 8.96 metres, beating the American Mike Powell's 8.95m at the Tokyo World Championships in 1991.

Pedroso appeared to have taken advantage of a rare lull in the gusting wind to achieve his record jump, with the wind assistance reading 1.2 metres per second for the leap, comfortably below the 2.0m threshold.

But some spectators said they saw a man standing in front of the wind measuring machine just before Pedroso set off. Cloud cover meant the wind gauge was out of vision for television cameras but video taken by an amateur cameraman alongside the track clearly shows someone in a blue jacket standing very near to the machine.

The Italian sports daily Tuttosport claimed yesterday someone had deliberately stood in front of the measuring machine for most of Pedroso's jumps.

"Only when Pedroso was about to jump did someone wearing a blue jacket... position himself a few centimetres in front of the wind machine, blocking it totally," the paper alleged.

The Cuban athlete recorded four valid jumps in all. Only one other competitor in the long jump managed to make a leap with the wind level within the legal requirements. The wind machine was used over 60 times with only these five leaps in the men's long jump coming in under the permitted level.

"Are we talking sabotage, chance or programmed cheating?" the respected daily Corriere Della Sera asked.

It is not the first time that an Italian long jump competition has been involved in allegations of scandal. At the 1983 Rome World Championships, officials were suspended after the home jumper Giovanni Evangelisti was wrongly given the bronze medal.

The referee monitoring the wind gauge on Saturday, Denis Morino, said at the time of Pedroso's leap he was not aware of anyone standing nearby.

n Carl Lewis strained a hamstring competing in Colorado over the weekend and is doubtful for the World Championships, starting on Saturday.

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