Athletics: Walker aims to recoup losses

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The Independent Online
DAVID MOORCROFT, chief executive of UK Athletics, renewed his call for the establishment of an independent drug testing agency in Britain yesterday amid heavy hints that Doug Walker will seek compensation following Wednesday's dismissal of doping charges against him.

On a day when it emerged that the reason for the adverse test produced by the European 200 metres champion on 1 December was still a mystery, there was less doubt about the direction his legal representative, Nick Bitel, was moving in as he spoke of the distress and expense Walker had suffered during the seven months' wait.

"Today is not the time to talk in detail about our financial options," Bitel said. "But what is true is that Dougie has suffered for seven months. He's been through hell and it was unnecessary. I think no athlete should be banned or suspended until they have been found guilty."

Although Walker, who was suspended at the end of March when an initial UK Athletics" enquiry decided he had a case to answer, is free to resume running immediately, he said he was unlikely to compete again this season but was concentrating on racing and training abroad as preparation for the Olympics.

A three-man disciplinary committee cleared Walker of any wrongdoing after considering the case on Monday and Tuesday. His agent, Elliott Bunney, estimated that as European champion in a year when the 200m is one of the IAAF Golden League distances, Walker could have expected appearance fees of up to $20,000 a time. Although the 26-year-old Scot, for whom Wednesday's news came as an ideal birthday present, will be paid back- dated cheques from his sponsors and the Lottery fund, he has missed out on what could have been the most lucrative year of his career.

Moorcroft spoke of the uneasy position into which UK Athletics has been forced.

"We have played the role of policemen in this, which is probably not the most appropriate role for us. These cases are not just expensive for the athletes, but for the governing bodies as well. The government has said it supports efforts to control doping abuse. They would underline that support by providing funding for a central agency."

Apart from Walker himself, the man who will be following this case with more personal interest than anyone is Tony Shiret, the wealthy stockbroker who, as patron of Walker's club Newham and Essex Beagles, has paid all the Scotsman's legal fees out of his own pocket.

Shiret, a former 400m hurdler who once raced against the great Ed Moses - "My greatest athletic achievement was getting over the last hurdle before he finished" - refused to say exactly what he was expecting, but admitted: "There are some considerations." Asked how much money he had spent, he commented: "It's a decent amount. But I can take the hit."

Walker had protested his innocence since the out-of-competition test at his Edinburgh home had indicated metabolites of the banned steroid Nandrolone in his urine. He spoke yesterday of his feeling of relief after months of frustration, but he remained mystified as to the cause of the finding.

The explanation provided by UK Athletics said that the finding of the nandrolone metabolite - 19-norandrosterone - in Walker's sample could have come from one of three substances. The first, Nandrolone, is a prohibited substance according to the International Olympic Committee and IAAF list. But the other two - 19-norandrostenedione and 19-norandrostenediol - are not prohibited.

"Therefore, because the substance found in Doug Walker's sample could have come from substances which were not prohibited, it could not be shown beyond reasonable doubt that a doping offence had taken place." Bitel confirmed that such a result could have been brought about by protein supplements Walker had been taking.

Four months earlier, Walker had sat in front of the same motto at the law society - Leges Iuraque Servanus ("the law serves justice") after hearing he had a case to answer. Then, he was barely coherent and, on occasions in tears. Yesterday he had regained a fresh-faced look.

While he waited on Wednesday morning, he had gone out on his own to play at the local golf course. The call finally came when he had returned home. "I saw the phone said `Nick calling' and I thought, `Christ here we go" my hands were shaking'."

Once the good news had come through, Walker and his parents were joined by family and friends for a celebration that went on until the early hours, although Walker himself went to bed at 11.30.

"I had quite a few drinks, but I wasn't pissed," he said. I never felt I had anything to be ashamed of and so it hasn't bothered me when I have done things like go out for a drink with my mates."

"I know there will always be cynics or doubters, but I couldn't give a toss about them. The people who matter to me, everyone in the sport I know, have been completely supportive."