Athletics: Drugs disclosure

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FOUR leading Russian athletes were ordered back to Moscow yesterday after customs officials in Malmo found illegal substances in the team coach's luggage. All four will now undergo drug tests.

The four were named as the pole vaulter, Rodion Gataullin, the women's world 100 metres hurdles champion, Ludmila Naroshilenko, the women's world 400m hurdles champion, Margarita Ponomaryeva, and the sprinter, Tachana Reshnetikova.

The athletes were taking part in a training programme in Malmo, which has now been curtailed. Bengt Bendeus, the chairman of the MAI club which had organised the programme, said: 'Customs officials found anabolic steroids and syringes in a suitcase belonging to the coach, Lydia Fedotova.'

However, Fedotova said later, in a television interview, that the drugs were for private use: 'I suffered a serious case of pneumonia last September. Would I, a grown-up athlete, use or give something (anabolic steroids) to someone?'

Because of the seizure of the illegal substances, the MAI board decided to terminate the athletes' contracts, and cancel an international meeting the club were due to host in February.