ATHLETICS: Walker anger at IAAF drug decision

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The Independent Online
DOUG WALKER faces a further fight to clear his name on doping allegations following a decision by the International Amateur Athletics Federation not to accept the UK Athletics finding that he was innocent.

The Scottish European 200 metres champion, who tested positive for traces of the steroid nandrolone last December, was cleared of any wrongdoing last month by a UK athletics disciplinary committee, which ruled out the possibility that he had knowingly taken a steroid and acknowledged the substance may have occurred naturally.

But now Walker's case is to be referred to the IAAF's arbitration panel. The IAAF general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, speaking on the opening day of the Federation's Congress in Seville, said: "The anti-doping commission unanimously believes that this was an erroneous decision. The criteria is whether a substance is in the body or not."

If that is to be seen as the sole important factor then Walker, who is still free to compete until the arbitration panel decides otherwise, faces serious problems. He has never disputed that metabolites of nandrolone were present in his sample, but said he had no idea how they had got there. A three-man disciplinary committee concluded that the ingestion of the substance was of a wholly innocent and accidental nature.

"Doug is extremely annoyed with the whole decision-making process where people's time and tens of thousands of pounds have been wasted at the stroke of a pen. I think it's a very strange decision and cannot be justified," said Walker's legal representative, Nick Bitel. "The disciplinary committee made a rigorous and very full enquiry into the case before making their decision. The panel hearing the case was extremely well qualified to do so and I find it a perverse decision by the IAAF."

Walker's fate could have a bearing on the cases of fellow Britons Gary Cadogan and Linford Christie, who face disciplinary hearings following tests indicating nandrolone. "We are disappointed," said the UK Athletics spokesperson Jayne Pearce. "However, we stand behind the decision of the disciplinary committee to clear Doug Walker. Each case is taken on its own individual merits but if they are cleared that would have to go the IAAF. That is the rule. To be honest, I think the world is watching because we are very concerned about the science concerning metabolites and nandrolone."

The Scottish Athletics Federation last night shared UK Athletics' disappointment with the IAAF decision and, in a statement, its chief executive David Joy said the referral of the Walker case to arbitration "reinforced the call for an immediate inquiry into the drug nandrolone".

The remainder of the statement read: "The... Federation are disappointed by the decision taken by the IAAF to refer the case of Dougie Walker to arbitration. We are dismayed by a process that allows the findings of what was an extensive and independent inquiry by UK Athletics to be called into question. This will inevitably result in another stressful period of waiting for the athlete. The Scottish Athletics Federation and UK Athletics will be giving their full support to Walker as we await the panel's decision."

The IAAF also decided yesterday to reject Ben Johnson's appeal to run again. The 38-year-old Canadian, twice convicted for doping offences, had won an appeal in the Canadian Court of Arbitration last April, which ruled that the national governing body had failed to follow correct procedures in banning him. But his claim was dismissed because the Canadian Arbitration panel had no jurisdiction under IAAF rules. The IAAF said the ruling was final, with no possibility of an appeal.

A three-man panel has been established to investigate allegations that the Kenyan steeplechaser Bernard Barmasai had colluded with a team-mate to win in Zurich last Wednesday. They will report on 30 August.

Meanwhile, the IAAF ruled that the Cuban high jumper Javier Sotomayor must face doping charges after testing positive for cocaine at this month's Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, where he was stripped of the gold medal.