Athletics: Christie clean in later test

LINFORD CHRISTIE was passed clear in a doping test taken less than two months after the adverse finding of Nandrolone for which he is currently investigation.

This weekend, the German doctor who handled the urine sample taken from the 39-year-old former 100m Olympic champion after he had raced in Dortmund on 13 February, confirmed earlier reports that it contained metabolites of nandrolone of more than 100 times the legal limit.

Dr Wilhelm Schanzer commented that it was one of the clearest cases he had seen recently, and that he had no doubt it could not have been produced naturally but must have come either from injecting the banned steroid or taking a tablet.

Nandrolone taken in this way is widely acknowledged as being liable to stay in the body for up to 12 months. But sources close to Christie claim he underwent an out-of-competition test while he was in Australia between 7 March and 10 April which showed no adverse findings.

UK Sport, which co-ordinates a doping control programme at home and abroad, was unable to confirm or deny the report last night.

It also emerged yesterday that the UK Athletics disciplinary committee which Christie must face is being delayed in its formation because of problems concerning the chain-of-custody for Christie's sample.

Unless there is clear evidence of the sample's safekeeping from the point where it was taken to the lab in which it was analysed, there can be no guarantee that a sample has not been either tampered with or mishandled.

This point proved to be crucial in the successful appeal mounted by British 800m runner Diane Modahl following her four-year ban for an adverse testosterone finding. Modahl's sample showed a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 42:1, hugely over the allowable female level of 6:1, but the sample was shown to have become degraded through incorrect storage at the Portuguese testing laboratory.

Christie's disciplinary committee will be chaired by Ian Mill QC, who was in charge of the trio which cleared Doug Walker last month after he had tested adversely for nandrolone metabolites, and which will sit in the forthcoming case of 400m hurdler Gary Cadogan, whose sample showed up the same substance.

Athletes in Christie's training group rallied to his support at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Darren Campbell, who has been Christie's protege in the 100 metres, spoke of the emotional impact made by the news which was broken to the group this week, even though Christie himself had known of the findings since early March, when he was in Australia.

"It has been a hard week for everyone in the group," Campbell said. "Most of all, Jamie and I feel guilty because we were the ones who bet Linford about coming back to run this year.

"There's nothing I can say about the case that anyone can't see for themselves. Why would someone who has won everything decide to take drugs at the age of 39 for three or four races? Why? Why? Why? Logic tells you it doesn't make sense."

Speaking after she had reduced her 400 metres personal best to 50.58sec, Katharine Merry spoke out over Christie's predicament and the way it had altered her view of the drug testing system.

"I have no faith in the system any more,' Merry said. "I don't believe Linford took drugs. What happened to him could happen to me, could happen to any other athlete."

Paula Radcliffe, who took two seconds off her own British 5,000m record in recording 14min 43.54sec behind Morocco's Zahra Ouaziz, has initiated her own dope-testing initiative with UK Athletics blessing in order to speed up the introduction of blood testing to athletics.

The Bedford runner has asked all of Britain's endurance runners from 800 metres upward to submit to voluntary blood tests, with results to be published.

"We are just doing it to make a stand," Radcliffe said. "It will be on a voluntary basis, but a number of athletes, including Kelly Holmes, Hayley Haining and Helen Pattison have already agreed to do it."