Athletics: Cloud hangs over crusader Baumann

Simon Turnbull says nandrolone's net is spreading through the sport
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BRITAIN WAS NOT the only track and field nation squirming under the dark shadow of doping last week. Germany was coming to terms with the news that one of its favourite sporting sons, Dieter Baumann, the 1992 Olympic 5,000m champion, had fallen foul of the drug testers. Urine samples taken at training sessions on 19 October and 12 November showed metabolites of the anabolic steroid nandrolone 10 times above the accepted limit.

"Can it possibly be true?" the newspaper Die Welt asked, headlining a nation's incredulity. "Can a person really be so hypo-critical?" Baumann's case has hit Germany so hard because he has gained a golden boy image and because he has been a strident anti-drugs campaigner. He has fronted a German initiative against blood doping in sport and called for federal laws to punish cheating athletes.

"To me, it is the same as taking narcotic drugs," he said last year. "It should be a punishable offence in law - and the punishment should be severe."

Professor Helmut Digel, president of the Deutscher Leichtathletik Verband, the German athletics federation, broke down in tears when informed of Baumann's failed test. Baumann had campaigned alongside him against the use of drugs in the sport. "It is something else when a thing like this happens to a friend of yours," Digel said.

Baumann himself has protested his innocence. "I have never taken any doping substance," he said. "This would contradict my attitude towards track and field and my attitude towards life. I know that I have not taken anything but still my samples were found positive. I have no explanation for it."

One Dutch laboratory might. It claims that high nandrolone levels are possible due to metabolic changes with older athletes. Baumann, 34, will not be the only one interested in their research. Two of the three British athletes whose positive nandrolone tests, despite being accepted as false by UK Athletics, have been referred to the International Amateur Athletic Federation's doping arbitration panel are over 30. But the British picture concerning the trio - Linford Christie, 39, Gary Cadogan, 33, and Dougie Walker, 26 - turned from confusingly cloudy to decidedly messy last week.

First the IAAF, frustrated by what it perceives to be buck-passing by Britain and other countries whose cleared athletes have been referred to arbitration, announced that national federations whose athletes are subsequently banned will have to meet the cost of appeals. Then Walker's legal representatives served High Court writs against both UK Athletics and the IAAF. And Christie announced he would not be defending himself at his arbitration hearing.

Christie, having retired from competitive athletics and having been exonerated by UK Athletics, maintains he has nothing to prove by facing the IAAF, though the imposition of a ban could affect his work as a coach and television commentator.

The prospect of paying arbitration costs and defending legal action, however, is a daunting one for UK Athletics. Its predecessor, the British Athletic Federation, was bankrupted when Diane Modahl's drugs ban was overturned four years ago and Dave Moorcroft, the chief executive of the national governing body, confessed on Thursday: "It is a major concern."

There is no such fear in Germany - merely concern that Baumann, who succeeded Moorcroft as holder of the European 5,000m record, might, as Die Welt put it, "stain" the national vest. In contrast to the positive tests on the British athletes, which were initially withheld from the public domain for fear of litigation, Baumann's failure has been confirmed even though the secondary urine samples taken to back up the findings of the "A" samples have yet to be analysed. "That will take another three weeks," Stefan Volknant, spokesman for the Deutscher Leichtathletik Verband, said on Friday.

Unlike UK Athletics, however, the German federation are not running scared of possible ruination. "Katrin Krabbe did try to fight us in court two years ago," Volknant said. "But she failed." It was a rare defeat for the former East German sprinter. Then again, in the days when she left the rest of the world trailing in her wake, she was fuelled by the drug clenbuterol.

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