Commonwealth Games 2014: More despair for Team Wales as Rhys Williams fails drug test

The 30-year-old becomes the second Welsh athlete to be forced out of the Commonwealth Games over doping allegations

Team Wales were today reeling from yet another calamitous Commonwealth blow after Rhys Williams was thrown out of the Games after an anti-doping violation.

The 400m hurdle European champion, son of Wales rugby legend J J Williams, declared himself “devastated” and denied any wrongdoing.

But, after a B sample on Friday morning backed up an initial positive A sample, he was suspended from all competition, forcing him out of the Games and leading him to give up his co-captaincy of the athletics team.

The Welsh team have suffered a disastrous build-up. World triathlon champions Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins withdrew because of injury, while a cancer scare stopped track cyclist Becky James, herself a former world champion, from taking the start line.

 

On the eve of the Opening Ceremony there were the less high-profile withdrawals through injury of weightlifter Faye Pittman and judo player Kyle Davies, while boxer Fred Evans, who was convicted of common assault in April, was refused Games accreditation.

Williams’ test comes 10 days after countryman Gareth Warburton, due to run the 800m at the Games, was forced to withdraw from competition following his own anti-doping violation. The pair share the same management and supplement company, and both have professed their innocence.

In a similar statement to the one from Warburton on 16 July, Williams, who deleted his Twitter account earlier in the week, said: “I am utterly devastated about the news of this anti-doping rule violation, which has come as a great shock to me. From the outset, I would strongly like to state that I have not knowingly taken any banned substance.

“As a professional athlete, I have always supported and have been an advocate of clean sport. However, I recognise that the responsibility for this situation lies with me and I’m committed to working with UK Anti-Doping and will fully cooperate in the legal process.

“To be named co-captain for the Welsh Athletics team was a great honour and I am distraught that I won’t be able to fulfil this role and join them as part of Team Wales.”

Welsh Athletics has already launched an internal review after the two failed drugs tests and said it was “obviously concerned that this is the second anti-doping violation by a senior Welsh athlete”.

Mountain Fuel, which has provided supplements for both athletes, is also looking into the matter. A company spokesman said: “There’s an internal and external investigation going on to find out what has happened. It’s not just Mountain Fuel under investigation, there’s lots of aspects so I can’t really comment. That would be unfair.”

The Commonwealth Games had become Williams’ major target for the season after he missed out on selection for the European Championships to team-mate Dai Greene, but Williams is now ineligible to compete while the investigation is continuing.

Former Wales athlete Baroness Grey-Thompson admitted she was stunned by the news. “It’s a real shock,” she said. “It is a huge blow for Wales and for athletics. I don’t think we ever would have expected anything like this from him.”

Williams has a strong major event pedigree. As well as being European champion, he boasts three other European medals and won bronze at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi four years ago. Ranked 14th in the world this year, he was a medal contender despite there being a strong South African and Jamaican contingent in the event.

The 30-year-old has the opportunity to appeal against the initial suspension at a full hearing before the National Anti-Doping Panel, a date for which will be announced in due course.

Matt Newman, the chief executive of Welsh Athletics, explained: “The B sample was tested yesterday and that came back to match the A same results this morning. What will now happen is we shall have the opportunity to go in front of an anti-doping panel but that’s not likely to happen until the autumn.

“In the interim period, it’s really now for Rhys to gather as much information as possible to make a case for the defence.”

Team Wales had gone into the Games with an ambitious target of 27 medals, a jump from the 17 won in Delhi in 2010. Even prior to the latest news, they realised they would have to revise that tally.

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