Athletics: Defiant Gunnell retains her title: Commonwealth games: England's supreme hurdler plays captain's innings as Matete breaks Pascoe's record

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SALLY GUNNELL played the kind of innings Mike Atherton would have been proud of at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria yesterday. The England team captain retained her 400 metres hurdles title as easily as the ranking suggested she would, and she then leapt to the defence of British athletics.

England's team, under a media siege since it was confirmed on Thursday morning that Diane Modahl and Paul Edwards had failed drugs tests, badly needed the pick-me-up. The scandal dominated post-race proceedings as Gunnell was forced to answer accusations that Britain has a major problem.

'I've always believed Britain was a very clean country and I still do,' she said. 'My message is test us whenever you want. We are clean. But we need to go home and sort things out because there are so many stories.'

Gunnell admitted the news had badly affected team morale. 'It was total devastation, we couldn't believe it. But we decided yesterday lunchtime we wouldn't allow anyone to talk about it. Now my job in the next couple of days is to get back into the village and cheer everyone up because there are still medals to be won.'

At the moment, Gunnell is head and shoulders above the rest of the world's hurdlers so she could afford to stutter badly as she approached the ninth hurdle, and still win by more than half a second in 54.51 seconds from Deon Hemmings, of Jamaica.

It was the first of four Games records set throughout a day of high quality athletics. The pity was the fall-out from the Modahl and Edwards affairs continued to dominate things.

John Regis, whose participation in Victoria had been in doubt because of an Achilles injury, was again denied goals in the 200m, this time by Frankie Fredericks. The Namibian was on his shoulder coming off the bend and when he turned up the pace, the Englishman was unable to respond. Fredericks' time of 19.97 removed 0.39 of a second from the record Regis had set in a semi-final. Regis ran 20.25. It was the Londoner's second successive silver medal - he was runner-up to Marckus Adams in Auckland four years ago - but he must be cursing his bad luck. In Sestriere at the end of July before he got injured, he had beaten Fredericks, the world champion, by a tenth of a second, setting a UK record of 19.87.

That first major senior title continues to elude 21-year-old Steve Smith, of Liverpool. He was beaten in a jump-off by Tim Forsyth, of Australia, after both achieved 2.32m. The bar went up and down between 2.32m and 2.34m for 15 minutes before Forsyth cleared the lower height, and Smith did not. Two weeks ago, Smith finished second in the European Championships, while last year he won bronze in the world indoor and outdoor championships.

Bob Weir, the 1982 hammer champion, struck a rare blow for England's discus throwers. The former American footballer from Birmingham, who returned to athletics last year, finished third with a throw of 60.86m behind Werner Reiterer, of Australia. He threw 62.76. In the javelin, Sharon Gibson, of Notts, won the bronze with an effort of 58.20m nehind Australia's Louise McPaul, who threw 63.76m.

The acrimony surrounding the Games boxing competition took a further twist on Thursday when international amateur boxing's leading official accused the Canadians of cheating. Professor Anwar Chowdhry, president of the International Amateur Boxing Association, said the Canadian corner were having round-by- round scores relayed from the host broadcasting box above the ring to assist their fighters in tight bouts.