Commonwealth Games: Spirit of athletics damaged

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THE NEWS that the Commonwealth Games 100 metres silver medallist Horace Dove- Edwin has tested positive for steroids has a profoundly dispiriting resonance for the sport of athletics.

This was a man whose performance would otherwise have become a celebrated story in the history of the Games. His achievement in finishing second to Linford Christie ahead of some of the world's most respected sprinters surprised everyone - including himself, if his looks of crazy celebration at the finish and tearful joy on the rostrum were to be trusted.

It appeared to be a significant step in a career which had been made possible by a grant from the International Olympic Committee's Solidarity Fund and private sponsorship - funding which has established him at La Grange University in Atlanta, a school fostering African relations.

At 27, he had arrived. His home country of Sierra Leone, which had not provided him with a uniform for the opening ceremony, was expediting matters for the closing ceremony. His mother, a store worker in Brixton, was overjoyed. It was a story in the heartwarming tradition of the Friendly Games. And now this.

What adds a bitter irony is the fact that the substance detected in Dove-Edwin's A sample, stanozolol, was the same which brought about the fall of Ben Johnson after his Olympic 100m victory of 1988. Dove-Edwin has dropped from a far lesser height, but the impact on the sport's spirit is significant.

Diane Modahl, who faces a test on her B sample in Lisbon tomorrow which could lead to her being banned for four years, has sought legal and medical advice in preparing a case for the defence.

Senior International Amateur Athletic Federation officials have been quoted as saying that Modahl's sample taken on 18 June in Lisbon showed higher levels of the male hormone testosterone than those found in the samples which led to Ben Johnson's life ban.

Yesterday Michele Verroken, head of the Sports Council doping control unit, suggested that a medical condition could be responsible for the test finding.

Vicente Modahl, Diane's husband and coach, said that two medical experts - the British team doctor Malcolm Brown, and Professor Arnold Beckett, formerly head of the Sports Council's testing laboratory and a former member of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission - would be travelling with him to Lisbon for the testing of the B sample.

'They will be making very searching enquiries into the testing procedure,' Modahl said.

Medical conditions have caused positive tests in the past. In 1989, at the English Schools Championships, a 16- year-old sprinter tested positive for the male hormone HCG, a result that was subsequently attributed to the fact that he had a malignant cancer.

Paul Edwards yesterday reiterated his claim that he has never taken drugs to enhance his performance. The Walton-on-Thames shot putter, sent home from Victoria after failing a drugs test at the European Championships in Helsinki, is alleged to have failed a second test containing a cocktail of banned substances. A newspaper report yesterday claimed the drug clenbuterol, which acts as a performance-enhancing stimulant similar to adrenalin, was discovered in the cocktail.

But Edwards, in a statement issued from the London hospital where he is receiving treatment for a stomach complaint, said: 'I have not taken any drugs to enhance my performance. I am currently seeking medical and legal advice and do not wish to comment further until I have received that advice.'