Drugs in Sport: British diver suspended for refusing test: More problems for officialdom as Commonwealth Games high-board finalist is revealed as having contravened regulations

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The Independent Online
TONY ALI, one of Britain's leading divers, has been suspended for six months for refusing a random drug test.

The news comes as Diane Modahl, one of six British athletes to give positive drug tests this season, prepares for the crucial follow-up test today which could effectively end her career and see Britain's women ejected from next month's World Cup in London.

Fina, the international swimming federation, decided to suspend the 21-year-old Ali at a meeting on Sunday, thus ruling him out of the World Championships, which begin in Rome on Thursday.

British team sources said later that Ali had declined to take the random test in June during a British Olympic Association training camp at Tallahassee, Florida.

That begs the question: why was he allowed subsequently to compete in the Commonwealth Games, in Victoria, where he was sixth in the highboard final last Thursday?

But the England aquatics team manager, Barbara Lancaster, considers there were extentuating circumstances that forced Ali to miss the test that he and a 1500m freestyle siwmmer, Ian Wilson, were selected for just as they were boarding a plane back home.

Relaying comments Lancaster made before leaving Victoria yesterday, The England team spokeswoman, Caroline Searle, said: 'They had 24 hours in which to provide a sample and the flight took 17 hours and landed in London on the day of a rail strike.'

Wilson made it to Barnet, for the dope test, just in time, but Tony had the additional an extra problem because he had to get to the dole office in Sheffield or he would lose a fortnight's money.'

Lancaster said that Ali was advised by his coach to make the dole office his first priority and that representations would be made on his behalf to Fina.

The Fina suspension appears to have brought to a halt a career that promised huge achievement. Ali, a muscular individual of Italian parentage, was spotted diving at his local Ladywell Baths in Lewisham as a nine-year-old. A year later he won a silver medal at the British Championships.

His style earned praise from the Olympic champion, Greg Louganis, who commented upon seeing the 13- year-old Ali dive: 'That youngster looks a little bit special.'

At the age of 14, Ali won eight out of a possible 10 British titles at senior and age- group level. In recent years, however, his achievements have been respectable rather than remarkable.

Meanwhile British athletics officials are reserving their right to argue Modahl's case even if the analysis of the second urine sample she provided on 18 June in a meeting at Lisbon also shows up as illegal.

Modahl's first result - said by an International Amateur Athletic Federation official to have contained very high levels of the male hormone testosterone - would carry a four-year ban if confirmed. That retrospective punishment would invalidate her 800m European Cup win for Britain, upon which the British women's World Cup place depends.

But the British Athletic Federation spokesman, Tony Ward, said yesterday: 'There is something odd about the whole business of Diane's test but what it is, no one knows.

'We are not going to withdraw from the World Cup until we are satisfied that Diane had taken a substance that would have given her an advantage at the European Cup. If it is an illness that caused the extremely high levels of testosterone then clearly it is not an advantage.

'The International Amateur Athletic Federation thought we should do the decent thing and withdraw, but that would be condemning Diane before the test.'

Modahl's husband and coach, Vicente, has travelled to Lisbon to witness the test in company with the British team doctor, Malcolm Brown, and Professor Arnold Beckett, formerly head of the Sports Council's testing laboratory and member of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission.

'The outcome of this test will be that she has nothing to hide, certainly,' Vicente Modahl said upon arrival yesterday. 'Whether the outcome happens here or later, we'll have to see.'

As a second test on a urine sample has never yet contradicted a first one, the likelihood is that Modahl may have to put her case to a hearing arranged by the BAF. That will surely be arranged swiftly, with the World Cup coming up from 9 to 11 September.

The mystery over the Lisbon laboratory's failure to test Modahl's sample for a month after it arrived was explained by an IAAF spokesman yesterday. The delay was caused by a backlog of testing after the laboratory was had been cleared for extensive reconstruction.

Lifter fails test, page 38