Athletics: Modahl procedure 'irregular'

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The Independent Online
FURTHER details emerged yesterday of irregularities in the processing of Diane Modahl's positive drugs test - departures from procedural guidelines which may be of use in a possible defence against the four-year suspension she faces if Tuesday's follow-up test confirms the first finding.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation, which yesterday categorically denied reports that recent drug tests had yielded a further 20 positive findings, is to investigate the sequence of events between Modahl's testing at a European Athletic Association meeting on 18 June and the arrival of notification on the desk of Peter Radford, the British Athletic Federation's executive chairman, on 24 August.

According to the IAAF Rule 8.1, any positive sample established must be communicated directly to the IAAF. The laboratory at Lisbon first passed the report to the Sporting Institute of the Portuguese Ministry of Education. Details were then given to the Portuguese Athletic Federation on 22 July. It delayed passing on the information until its president, Ferdinando Mota, returned from holiday.

The notice of Modahl's positive test was ready to be communicated to the British federation nearly a week before Radford got the news. The letter containing the information was dated 18 August. The letter also failed to fulfil the obligation of providing a copy of the consent form which athletes fill in before testing, declaring what medicines or substances they have taken.

The British Athletic Federation have been careful to reserve their option of defending Modahl on possible medical grounds. 'There are substances in the past which have been caused by medical problems,' said Tony Ward, the Federation's spokesman. In 1989 at the English Schools Championships, Stephen Rhys Thomas, a 16-year-old sprinter, showed illegal levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin but the test result was subsequently explained by the fact that he was suffering from an illness. It is possible that Modahl may cite a similar occurrence.

'Our lawyer is working very hard on the case,' Vicente Modahl, her husband and manager, said yesterday. 'I can't comment on the nature of our defence.'

The report of the 20 pending positive drug tests was dismissed by Christopher Winner, the IAAF spokesman, as 'the result of a misunderstanding'. The figure provided, he said, was a rough estimate on the number of out-of-competition tests which had been performed within a given period. 'There are more positive tests in the pipeline,' he said. 'But the figure isn't anywhere approaching 20. And none are people who will shake the sporting world to its knees.'

Of those awaiting results on their B samples, none is believed to be British - or Russian. Russia finished one place behind Britain's women in the European Cup so still stand to gain a World Cup place at Britain's expense if Modahl's European Cup win is annulled.

In the meantime the IAAF is investigating the possibility of doing away with B sample tests to expedite the drug-testing procedure. 'Testing of A samples would have to be made iron-clad, and the changes would have to be approved by all those under the umbrella of the International Olympic Committee,' Winner said.

The Jamaican 110m hurdler Robert Foster tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine at the Commonwealth Games, officials announced yesterday.