Athletics: Russia backing Britain over World Cup: British federation's delay over possible withdrawal supported by main rivals for place at Crystal Palace

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THE head of the Russian Athletic Federation said yesterday that Britain was right not to withdraw it's women's team from the World Cup finals, despite the fact that their qualification was in doubt following the suspension of Diane Modahl after a doping test.

Modahl's 800 metres victory in the European Cup in June was decisive in giving Britain the second World Cup qualifying place ahead of Russia. But if her appeal against a four-year ban is rejected, the performance will be annulled as it came after her first positive test.

The British Athletic Federation has ruled that withdrawing the team from the finals at Crystal Palace next weekend before Modahl has completed her appeal would be branding her as guilty and prejudice her chance of a fair hearing.

'The BAF made a decision about this. . . it is correct,' Valentin Balakhnichov, the president of the Russian federation, said. 'They have their own authority to make this decision and I agree with this. But I would like to know the position of the IAAF. I have no information from them.'

Ironically, Russia's men's team lost their place in the 1989 World Cup after the shot putter Alexander Bagach, who had earned sixth place after finishing sixth in the European Cup, had his performance annulled for a doping offence.

Portuguese officials confirmed yesterday that the two-month delay in announcing the result of Modahl's initial doping test was caused by renovation work at the Lisbon laboratory which processed the sample. The work caused a backlog as testing equipment had to be moved temporarily to other premises. The laboratory received Modahl's samples on 22 June and communicated the result of the A sample test to the Portuguese Athletic Federation on 9 August.

The FPA president, Fernando Mota, was at the European Championships and said he only opened the confidential letter on his return to Lisbon on 16 August. He then informed the BAF, which, he added, had broken international regulations by announcing the result of the test before waiting for confirmation from the B sample.

Modahl has a maximum of 30 days in which to prepare for a hearing with the BAF. If the BAF panel of three decides she has a case, they will forward the details to the International Amateur Athletic Federation's appeal panel.

They will report to the IAAF Council, which can either reinstate an athlete or confirm the statutory punishment - in Modahl's case, a four-year ban retrospective from the date of the urine sample in question, 18 June.

A further step exists in the form of the International Council for Arbitration in Sport, set up earlier this year under the aegis of the International Olympic Committee and with the suport of international sporting federations, including the IAAF. The purpose of this body is to provide a final point of mediation between competitors and international federations which obviates the need for the competitor to take expensive legal action.