Athletics: Coe closing in on steroids

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

While athletes were giving blood samples for the first time at last night's Bislett Games here, there were indications that the campaign against drug abuse in sport is to make another significant advance in Britain.

Sebastian Coe, invited as a guest of honour to the meeting where he broke four world records in four visits, believes there is now a strong possibility that anabolic steroids will soon be outlawed in Britain other than for medical reasons.

Coe, MP for Falmouth, recently wrote an all-party letter with fellow MPs Menzies Campbell and Tom Pendry requesting that the question of a ban, which has been turned down in the past, be reconsidered. The letter was passed on to the Home Office from the Department of National Heritage, and Coe and his fellow campaigners have received encouraging indications that action to control a drug which is being widely misused will soon be taken.

'I have been battling on this issue for a long time,' Coe said on Saturday.

'Back in 1987 when I worked on the Misuse of Drugs Report with Colin Moynihan, many of our recommendations, such as moving random testing away from individual federations to the sports council, were taken up. But the question of restricting anabolic steroids met with some resistance.

'Tom and Menzies have been pushing hard for this in the House of Commons for many more years than I have. We are all very pleased that the Home Office may be looking at this afresh.'

Coe was not the only British middle-distance legend in town on Saturday. Two other Bislett world record breakers were here for differing reasons - Steve Ovett, who was commentating for ITV, and Steve Cram, who was running in the Dream Mile eight years after he won the event in a world record time of 3min 46.32sec.

Speaking before Saturday night's race, Cram took stock of a season in which his planned move up to 5000 metres has not really worked. His abortive attempt to gain the world championship qualifying time of 13:27 on Wednesday has inclined him back towards his familiar distance of 1500m. He stepped off the track at Kvalle, Sweden, with a lap to go primarily because he realised that he was not likely to get a time.

He now thinks the odds are that he will run the 1500m at next week's AAA Championships, which double as the world championship trials. 'If I did the 5,000 there it would be unlikely to be run at a pace to get the qualifying time,' he said, 'and to switch back to the 5,000m after running 1500m in the trials would be difficult. My overall tendency is still towards the 5,000m, but if I don't feel ready yet to do the 5,000m in Stuttgart I won't do it.'

Last night's meeting was operating on a budget of dollars 1m ( pounds 660,000), twice last year's total. That did not prevent the Santa Monica group, including Carl Lewis and Mike Marsh, from pricing themselves out of the Games but it was enough to secure the services of such athletes as Sergei Bubka, Noureddine Morceli, Khalid Skah, Linford Christie, Butch Reynolds and Michael Johnson.

This season's institution of the Golden Four meetings - comprising Oslo, Zurich, Berlin and Brussels - has generated income through a four-year television rights deal with Ufa, the European broadcasting body. The rights have been sold to 80 countries, and the estimated television audience for the meetings is nearly one and a half billion people.

It is on the back of that kind of operation that the Golden Four are able to offer 20 gold bars worth pounds 170,000 to any athlete winning their event at all four meetings.