Athletics: Forthright return for McColgan: Attack on drug-takers

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The Independent Online
LIZ McCOLGAN ran her career cautiously around the block yesterday - and the wheels stayed on. Her opinions also got an extended work-out as she reiterated her call for clean athletes to stand up and be counted in the fight against the 'blatant' drug-takers she feels are tarnishing British athletics.

The predominant emotions aroused in the person of the former world champion by victory in the BUPA Great Midland Run were patent. As she trotted past the statue of Lady Godiva beyond the finish line, her face exhibited naked delight, naked relief.

A winning time of 32min 38sec on a hilly 10km course - exactly two minutes outside her five-year- old world best on the road but the fastest by a Briton this year - indicated that this peculiarly determined 30-year-old can return to her previous level of performance, injuries permitting.

'I can talk a good race,' she said, after finishing nearly 10 seconds clear of her nearest challenger, Heather Heasman. 'I proved today that I can run a good race, too. After the traumas that I have been through, obviously I was not going to go out and blast it. I wanted to know that the knee and the toe were going to hold up. Today was all about going out there and not breaking down.'

Only 10 months earlier, unable to bend her left leg after an operation on her knee, she had been told by a medical specialist in the United States that she would not run again.

'When he said that to me,' she recalled, 'I just thought, 'Stuff you. In your opinion I won't, but in my opinion I will.' '

Glorious - and she was right. But niggling injury and a heavy cold nearly obliged her to postpone a comeback which has been scheduled many times since she last raced seriously, in May 1993.

Four days before she raced here, for instance, her knee flared up, although it did not trouble her yesterday. Her toe, however, did. It was, she said, very sore. Surgery would possibly correct that particular problem, but she does not want to take any further time out and will press on with the help of orthotic shoe inserts which will keep the pressure off the offending part.

'I have been told I will be in pain for the rest of my career,' she confirmed. 'I stick ice on my knee and my toe every day. Even when I am watching the telly.'

Amid the icepacks, her new, validated schedule looms once again: the European cross-country championships in December; the world cross-country championships next March; the 1995 London Marathon . . . time will tell.

In the meantime, she is calling for life bans for those who knowingly take steroids. She appeared to have moderated the views she expressed earlier in the weekend, when she said there were 'a lot of people on the British team' taking drugs, something which was 'so blatant that everyone just turns a blind eye'.

Yesterday, she talked about 'a small minority' of elite British offenders.

'But I feel they tarnish athletes like me and the sport,' she said. 'There are kids coming into the sport now who assume that to be a world champion you have to take a substance of some kind. But you can do it with just hard work. I have been there. I did it.

'I think it is time that the majority of athletes stood up against drug users. If someone is found guilty, they should be banned for life. And I think there should be more out-of-competition testing. I have only been tested out-of-competition once in the last five years. I know it is going to cost money but it would be worth it. If we say we are leading the way on drugs, let's lead the way.'

BUPA GREAT MIDLAND RUN (Coventry): Men: 1 G Staines (Belgrave) 28min 40sec; 2 D Lewis (Rosendale) 28:41; 3 P Evans (Belgrave) 28:45. Women: 1 L McColgan (Dundee) 32:38; 2 H Heasman (Kent) 32:47; 3 L Morton (Westbury) 33:47.