Athletics: Walker's supplement denial

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DOUG WALKER'S legal representative yesterday denied reports the athlete had incurred an adverse doping result by taking a supplement known as 19-NOR. The 25-year-old Scot is waiting for confirmation that he faces a doping charge after an out-of-competition sample taken last month showed up traces of what is claimed to the banned steroid, nandrolone.

Walker, who won the European 200 metres title last season, vehemently denies that he has taken any banned substances, but said that he had taken "another substance not on the banned list" which he said, "could give the same reading" as a trace - or metabolite - of nandrolone.

Walker endorses three products in the 1998-1999 catalogue for Maximuscle, which produces a range of supplements including 19-NOR, which manufacturers accept can produce traces in doping tests which can falsely indicate a use of nandrolone. However, Maximuscle's director of research, Zef Eisenberg, said yesterday that any of his company's products which formed a potential risk to any competitor working to the International Olympic Committee's list of banned substances was clearly labelled. He said: "We warn IOC athletes not to take certain products. You would have to be blind or stupid not to see the warnings."

Nick Bitel, Walker's legal representative, yesterday dismissed claims that NOR-19 might be involved in his client's case.

He said: "I find these claims incredible. Doug Walker has never knowingly taken any banned substance. Even if he had taken it, NOR-19 is only now being added to the [IOC's] list of banned substances." The supplement was not on the list when Walker was tested.

Bitel, meanwhile, has warned UK Athletics, the sport's new governing body that they can expect a lengthy battle if they do not clear Walker of the charges.

The UK Athletics chief executive, David Moorcroft, has promised to give Walker a full and fair hearing before action is taken.

Bitel said: "It is wrong to be perjorative against UK Athletics, but it has not yet got a system in place and no rules [for drugs cases] so of course I am wary.

"He is innocent. I have never come across a case that is as clear to me."

When asked if he thought there would be a speedy solution to the Walker case, Bitel said: "That depends on what attitude the athletics authorities take. If they say he is guilty this one will drag on for a considerable time and be very damaging to athletics and that is the last thing anyone wants. The simple solution is he [Walker] should be exonerated."

Speculation Walker might have taken other supplements containing unmarked substances which broke IOC rules is likely to go on. But one line of inquiry, that he may have taken Andro - or androsterone - the supplement favoured by the US baseball player Mark McGwire, is unlikely to provide a solution, as androsterone was added to the IOC banned list in January 1998.