Athletics: Slaney doping ban upheld at IAAF hearing

MARY SLANEY'S campaign against the doping penalty imposed on her three years ago was effectively defeated yesterday when she received a two-year retrospective ban without the right of appeal. The International Amateur Athletic Federation's arbitration panel discounted the former world champion's claim that an adverse testosterone finding may have resulted from her using the birth control pill. It added that the ruling was "final and binding".

Slaney, who as Mary Decker completed the 1,500 and 3,000 metres double at the 1983 World Championships, had argued that the widely used method of detecting illegal manipulation of the naturally occurring hormone - measuring it in proportion to the body's levels of epitestosterone - was unreliable.

But the three-strong panel ruled that she had provided insufficient evidence to justify overturning the ban. An IAAF statement said the punishment had had to be imposed because of Slaney's "failure to establish by clear evidence that an abnormal T/E (testosterone/ epitestosterone) ratio was attributable to pathological or physiological conditions".

The Federation had thus rendered null and void her performances in the two-year period starting from June 17, 1996 - the date she was tested at the US Olympic trials in Indianapolis. That means Slaney, now 40, loses the 1,500 metres silver medal she gained at the 1997 World Indoor Championships in Paris.

Slaney had claimed that the test was unreliable when carried out on women in their late thirties or early forties who were taking the birth control pill. With the help of her US kits sponsor, Nike, she contested the decision through the courts and in September 1997 USA Track and Field cleared her of a doping offence. The IAAF, which allowed Slaney to compete pending the arbitration panel's finding, said that her domestic association had acted erroneously.

Slaney's attorney, Doriane Lambelet Coleman, reacted angrily. "It is a sham, and they know it," she said. "It is sad that the worldwide governing body of track and field should choose to prop up this sham doping test programme at the expense of one of its greatest athletes. That they have chosen this course merely reveals the corrupt nature of that organisation and the fact that it has no interest whatever in a scientifically sound programme."