Athletics: `Innocent' Walker threatens to sue UK Athletics

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LAWYERS REPRESENTING Doug Walker, the European 200 metres champion whose track career has been in limbo following a positive drug test last year, served High Court writs yesterday against UK Athletics and the International Amateur Athletic Federation, alleging breach of contract and lack of jurisdiction.

Regardless of the case's outcome, the cost of defending it could leave the British athletics governing body bankrupt for the second time in three years. "We regret Dougie's decision. It will only result in an unnecessary waste of resources," Dave Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, said last night.

UK Athletics came into being this year after its predecessor, the British Athletic Federation, was financially broken by the legal liabilities in the 1994 Diane Modahl case. The past year, with Walker, Linford Christie, Gary Cadogan and Carl Myerscough all involved in complicated drugs cases, has already cost it an estimated pounds 200,000 in legal bills. With the former three athletes also likely to face IAAF arbitration panels early next year, UK Athletics might receive further bills in the region of pounds 500,000 for those hearings.

Perhaps the bitterest irony is that in June, officials at UK Athletics believed that they had escaped any such legal complications when they cleared Walker of all charges on the grounds that they could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Edinburgh sprinter had knowingly taken the banned anabolic steroid, nandrolone. But in August, the IAAF referred Walker's case to arbitration.

"There is nothing in the rules of UK Athletics giving them the power to ban my client if the IAAF instructs them to do so," Walker's solicitor, Nick Bitel, said last night.

Bitel explained that after the hearing, he asked Moorcroft for written assurances on the case, but never received any undertakings. "Our client went to the UK Athletics disciplinary panel, and either side, if they disagreed with that ruling, could have appealed and gone to arbitration in this country. That has not happened. Yet now we have another body, the IAAF, interfering in our arrangement."

Last night Walker said from his training base in South Africa: "As I have already proved my innocence before a UK Athletics panel, I am extremely disappointed that I have had to take this action. I feel that I have no other option."

Moorcroft is sympathetic to the feeling in the Walker camp that he faces being tried for the same offence twice. "But we are bound by the IAAF's rules," Moorcroft said. "UK Athletics supports the decision of our disciplinary hearing, and we intend to appear at the IAAF arbitration hearing to validate the findings.

"It is in everyone's interest that the real issue, regarding the possible use of a banned substance, should be resolved as soon as possible."

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