Athletics: Supplements may be `spiked'

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The Independent Online
THE CHIEF doping expert of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, Professor Arne Ljungqvist, suggested yesterday that veteran athletes who had tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone recently may have been taking impure food supplements in order to prolong their careers, writes Mike Rowbottom.

In a statement that will have particular resonance to Linford Christie and Merlene Ottey, both facing doping charges at the age of 39, Ljungqvist added that the more that becomes known about the drug test failures, the more it suggests that the athletes' problems "could stem from food supplements spiked with nandrolone. They may be taken totally inadvertently.

"The seeming epidemic spread of these cases can be explained by the presence of nandrolone precursors found in food supplements. These are like building blocks which, when you put them together, can make a positive finding. These food supplements may not have been labelled."

Georgio Reineri, the IAAF spokesman, said that such cases could produce legal difficulties. "We have a situation where athletes may have taken something forbidden and there is nothing on the label to say so. They face a ban, because in our rules the athlete is responsible for what is in their body. But from a legal point of view some problems can arise."

Meanwhile Christine Arron, France's European 200 metres champion, has spoken out against what she believes is widespread abuse of doping within the sport.

"I think there are athletes, including young ones, who are taking drugs," she said. "You see some athletes clocking fabulous times, and they fly on to another meeting and do it again. I don't know how they do it. I can't - I need time to recuperate. There are always people around me that think I have taken drugs. But I have a clear conscience. I have got where I am through hard work. The rules have to be consistent, or they are useless."