Athletics: Merry will support Christie

KATHARINE MERRY said yesterday that she will stand by her coach, Linford Christie, even if he is found guilty on the doping charge he faces.

Merry, who will compete in her first major championship 400 metres event here, has been training in Monte Carlo under Christie's supervision with fellow her athletes Darren Campbell (100m), Jamie Baulch (400m) and Paul Gray (400m hurdles).

Christie, who has produced an adverse test that shows metabolites of the banned steroid, nandrolone, will be here as an officially accredited coach - and that is a role Merry foresees for him for a long time to come.

"Whatever the verdict on Linford, I will never believe he took something and he will be my coach," she said. "In fact, I want him to be my coach until I retire. He has been laughing and joking with us like he always does, nothing has changed.

"We have talked about the positive test because you cannot avoid it and he doesn't want to because he has nothing to hide. When we arrived in Monte Carlo, the next day the newspapers reported that six competitors in different sports, not athletics, had tested positive for nandrolone.

It does not make sense. It has to be looked at. I said at the time that there would be a few more cases - and look what has happened to Merlene [Ottey]."

Meanwhile, Tony Jarrett has been forced to pull out of the 110m hurdles because of injury. "Tony injured his back whilst warming up for the Grand Prix at Crystal Palace, and sadly it did not hold up when he had a practice run over the hurdles," said Britain's chief coach, Max Jones.

Mark Richardson, who gets his challenge for a 400m medal underway tomorrow evening, believes that the overwhelming favourite for the title, the double Olympic champion, Michael Johnson, may not be completely fit.

"I saw him at the warm-up track yesterday and he didn't look very comfortable," Richardson said. "He did a lap and some stretching and then he was straight onto the physio table having a lot of treatment to his leg. He seemed fixated with it."

Johnson's season has been disrupted by a hamstring problem which forced him to pull up during the Stockholm Grand Prix and pull out of a scheduled world record attempt at the Zurich Weltklasse on 11 August.

However, at a press conference on Thursday, the Texan announced that he felt that he was in the best shape he had been in since 1996, when he won both the Olympic 200 and 400m.

Kelly Holmes, who arrived from her Madrid training base on Thursday along with the heptathlete Denise Lewis, said yesterday that she had decided to switch to running the 800m here instead of the 1500m.

Holmes, who has missed the best part of two seasons through injury, believes she is still lacking the background of endurance she needs to run the metric mile to her own standards. "It will be easier for me to sharpen up for 800m," she said.