Athletics: Livingston has four-year ban upheld: British sprinter considers further appeal on grounds of 'suppressed' information after federation imposes punishment for drug offence

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The Independent Online
JASON LIVINGSTON is considering a further appeal after yesterday's announcement by the British Athletic Federation that his four-year ban for drug abuse would be upheld.

Legal advisers to the 21-year-old sprinter - who was sent home from the Olympic Games when an earlier random test showed up the banned steroid, methandianone - claim the Sports Council's drug control centre which administered the test on 15 July 'suppressed' analytical information which they requested. They will put in a formal request for the information to be released before deciding on what action to take.

A Sports Council spokesman said yesterday: 'As Monday was a British Athletics Federation disciplinary hearing, it is for them to decide upon procedures and information.'

Livingston, who has 21 days to make a further appeal, said last night that he had been used as a scapegoat by British athletics officials. 'I am being imprisoned for something I haven't done, and always said I hadn't done,' he said. 'I half-expected it because the federation wasn't going to admit to making a mistake, because after the Butch Reynolds case it would have been too expensive for them.'

Stressing his intention to continue the battle to clear his name, he added: 'All I can say is that I tested negative on three occasions this year and when I was notified of the test in July, I was happy for the testers to come to my home. If I wasn't tested positive before, why should I be tested positive then?'

Apart from the four-year ban imposed by the international athletics authorities, Livingston also faces a lifelong ban from the Olympics by the British Olympic Association, which earlier this year ruled that any doping offender would no longer be eligible to compete in Britain's Games team.

'Unfortunately,' his advisers' statement said, 'notwithstanding the fact that his legal advisers requested on many occasions for all the documentation from the testing centre, it was only discovered during the hearing on Monday that certain analytical information was suppressed on the basis that they were deemed by the director of the drug control centre to be not relevant.

'Jason's scientific advisers do not concur with this view and therefore a formal request will be issued during the course of the next few days for this non-disclosed information.'

The three BAF officials - the chairman Nick Whitehead, Bob Greenoak and the former runner Joslyn Hoyte-Smith - who ruled on the case on Monday were unanimous.

Announcing their verdict, the BAF spokesman Tony Ward said: 'It's always very sad when a young international finds himself in this situation. But I think we look on it as a good day because we are adamant about our fight against what we believe is an evil in sport.'

Ward said he did not know the arguments that Livingston had used in his defence. It was of a 'scientific nature' rather than involving questions of testing procedure. Unlike clenbuterol, the drug involved in the recent cases involving British weightlifters and the German sprinter Katrin Krabbe, the banned status of methandianone is not in dispute.

Ward added the case was still sub judice because Livingston had the right to appeal, but he did not know whether the sprinter would take up that right.

Livingston is the biggest name in British athletics history to be banned for failing a drugs test. Jeff Gutteridge, the pole vaulter, tested positive for steroids when the punishment for British athletes was a life ban. Earlier this year, the young shot putter, Neal Brunning, received a four-year ban.

'We don't think it is the tip of the iceberg,' Ward said. 'We believe that 95 to 99 per cent of our top international athletes are drug-free. But clearly, in a world where this is becoming more and more prevalent, more athletes will be tempted down this route.'

Ward said the BAF would be pushing harder to ensure that the Government introduced legislation to punish those who supply steroids to athletes. Currently, it is an offence to sell steroids, but not to possess them.

When Livingston, the European 60 metres champion, was asked recently how he would feel if his fight to prove he was not a cheat went against him, he replied: 'I suppose you could say that's the end of my life.'

In March, the year had looked like being one for Livingston to remember, when the 5ft 4in prospect moved into serious reckoning by winning the 60-metre title at the European indoor championships in Genoa. In June he ran faster over 100 metres than any Briton in history except Linford Christie.

Since his ignominious return from Barcelona, after which he sought a lower profile by moving from Surrey to Cardiff, he has found himself not only suspended from athletics but also told he was welcome neither in rugby league nor professional football, two areas where he had previously contemplated earning a living.

(Photograph omitted)

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