Athletics: Norman comes under increasing pressure: Calls for suspension of promotions officer

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The Independent Online
ANDY NORMAN'S future as British athletics' most powerful figure was called further into question yesterday following allegations linking him with the suicide of Cliff Temple, a leading athletics writer.

Reports over the weekend, which claimed Norman had contributed to Temple's death with a blackmail threat and by spreading malicious rumours, have left the sport in turmoil.

Norman was not available for comment, but Professor Peter Radford, the chairman of the British Athletic Federation, expressed extreme concern about the allegations. 'They present serious problems on a range of fronts, not least concerning the image of the sport,' he said.

The controversy comes at an awkward time as the sport seeks replacements for major sponsors such as Pearl Assurance and Vauxhall Motors, who have pulled out of athletics in recent months. Panasonic, past sponsors of the AAA trials, are also believed to have decided recently to withdraw, creating a gap for what is the major domestic event of the season.

Britain's athletics writers have called on BAF to suspend Norman from his position as promotions officer pending an independent judicial inquiry. 'If the reports are substantiated by the inquiry,' the letter from the British Athletics Writers' Association to Radford says, 'we believe that Andy Norman should be dismissed and have no further role in our sport.'

BAF has already held one internal enquiry following a complaint from the Sunday Times last July that Norman had phoned their athletics correspondent when he was preparing a critical article about him and threatened to accuse him of sexually harassing Shireen Bailey, a 1500 metres runner Temple coached to the 1988 Olympic final. Bailey has dismissed the allegation as 'ridiculous'.

The reports also detailed instances when Norman insinuated impropriety concerning Temple to others in the sport.

According to BAF spokesman Tony Ward, Norman agreed to 'cease such activity forthwith' when called before Radford and the BAF treasurer John Lister in September. But Radford yesterday opened up the possibility of a further investigation. 'There is information in today's Sunday Times article which I was not aware of when we previously discussed this with Andy Norman,' he said. 'I want to make sure we see all the evidence there is, and I wish to ensure that Mr Norman is given the proper chance to defend himself.'

Radford will meet his senior BAF colleagues to discuss the call from the BAWA, which is also demanding an investigation into reports that Norman also threatened two other Association members, Steve Downes and Peter Nichols.

Norman, the man who wields massive international influence in his multitude of roles including agent, paymaster, promoter and British selector, has twice before been at the centre of independent investigations over controversy in the sport.

One inquiry cleared him of allegations he assisted athletes taking drugs to avoid detection; another cleared him in the aftermath of Steve Ovett's tearful revelation that Norman had offered him money to compete in the 1989 AAA Championships.