Athletics: Radford's rousing speech sways IAAF

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Britain won a significant victory in the war against drug abuse yesterday when the International Amateur Athletic Federation Congress was won over by a "Churchillian" speech from Professor Peter Radford.

Delegates in Gothenburg voted 137-49 to reject a Russian proposal to reduce the four-year ban for cheats to a minimum of two years. Radford, the executive chairman of the British Athletic Federation, had argued powerfully that there should be no change.

His speech made a big impact. Otto Klappert, one of the German delegates, said afterwards: "It was like Churchill - 'we will fight on and on and if we lose we will fight again'," he said.

Klappert's approval was all the more telling given that the German Federation had pressed for the ban to be cut because they were experiencing legal problems.

The proposal would have brought athletics into line with many other sports under the aegis of the International Olympic Committee, and would have prevented federations whose civil laws regarded a four-year ban as too harsh becoming involved in costly court actions.

The IAAF general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, said 15 countries had immediately given a letter to the sport's governing body after the ruling, asking the IAAF to pick up legal costs of athletes who contest bans in the civil courts.

But Radford, a former chairman of Britain's drug advisory group who is strongly committed to eradicating doping abuse, clearly appealed to the moral sense of those present, and earned a handsome response.

"Peter argued strongly that the rule should not be changed simply as a matter of expediency," Tony Ward, the BAF spokesman, said. "It is up to Germany to sort out their own problems. To have gone to two years would have been a retrograde step."

The IAAF vote came just a day after sprinters Daniel Effiong, of Nigeria, and Donovan Powell, of Jamaica, were both ruled out of the World Championships after receiving four-year and three-month bans respectively for doping abuses.

Among those athletes who have spoken out strongly against a reduction in the ban is Linford Christie, who will defend his world 100 metres title in Gothenburg next week as a newly announced grandfather.

"I just don't agree with cutting the ban from four years to two," he said. "If they cut life for murder to six weeks then more people are going to get killed." Here at least is something upon which Christie and Radford, protagonists earlier this season in a protracted dispute over payment, could agree.

The 100m world record holder, Leroy Burrell, and the world 800m record holder, Seb Coe, also called on the IAAF not to reduce the ban. "For something that important, the IAAF has to make a very important stand," Burrell said. "I have always been for a lifetime ban if you test positive, because it's cheating."

Coe, now a Conservative MP, said: "I have only ever felt that a life ban has been necessary. I think anybody caught taking drugs and taking them to gain an unfair advantage has no place in the sport. I just don't really understand either the rationale or frankly the morality of trying to water down the punishment."

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