Athletics: Ottey pulls out after drugs test

Athletics: Veteran sprinter withdraws from World Championships and vows to clear her name

MERLENE OTTEY, the most decorated athlete in the history of the World Championships, yesterday vowed to clear her name after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.

In yet another embarrassing drugs scandal for the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Ottey withdrew from the World Championships, which start in Seville tomorrow.

The 39-year-old Jamaican sprinter, who tested positive at a meeting in Lucerne on 5 July, said: "To withdraw has been the most difficult and emotionally draining experience of my life."

"I have lived my personal and athletic life with the utmost honesty and integrity. I have applied only the highest ethical standards to myself and expect the same from others. I have always proclaimed fairness in sports and adamantly oppose the use of banned substances.

"I owe it to my family, my country, my beloved sport and all my fans around the world to prove that this is a terrible mistake and that I will do everything in my power to find the truth and prove my innocence."

Ottey's agent, Daniel Zimmerman, added: "I spent the last 40 hours with her. She was certain this is impossible. She went through all the possible ways this could happen and she has no answer. On an emotional level she is very sad and very hurt. She is a strong personality that has given the sport something for the last 20 years and she does not want that taken away. She will fight this this."

Ottey is the second prominent athlete to test positive for nandrolone this year. Linford Christie, also 39 and a former training partner, tested positive after an indoor meeting in Dortmund in February. Another Briton, European 200m champion Doug Walker, has tested positive for the same drug.

Ottey's management was contacted on Sunday by the IAAF after a positive sample was found in a drug test at the IAAF laboratory in Lausanne.

Ottey won a record 14 medals in the six previous World Championships, including the 1993 and 1995 200m titles. She has won 34 medals in major international championships, including seven in the Olympics.

The IAAF general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, who as a commentator for Hungarian television spent 14 years watching Ottey said: "It is sad. It is disappointing that at a rather mature age some athletes probably believe this is the way to continue to be in centre stage. Certainly there will be people who say that they must have been cheating all their lives, but I don't want to speculate."

Gyulai did not give any details of the test, but said the amount of nandrolone detected could not have been caused naturally.

Herb Elliott, a Jamaican delegate at the IAAF Congress in Seville, said. "I have known her since she was seven. I have never known her to be on any substance."

Since 1979, Ottey has been tested approximately 100 times and all results were negative, her management said. The most recent tests at Ljubjliana on 12 May and in Stockholm 30 July 30 were also negative.

Ottey had let nobody be in doubt that although she was running at low key events this season she could still compete with current sprint queen Marion Jones.

"I am not running just because I have nothing else to do nor because I want to be a curiosity piece for journalists guessing at how long I can continue," she said.

"It is because I know that I can still beat the Marion Joneses of this world."

Ottey the Lion Queen,

page 24

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