Drugs in sport: Supple clear of doping offence

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The Independent Online
PAUL SUPPLE, a former British weightlifting champion, has been cleared of a doping offence in a case which appears to raise awkward questions about the testing procedure employed.

Supple, national champion at the 94kg weight in 1994 and 1995, has now resumed training for next year's Olympics, seven months after being suspended following an adverse finding for illegal testosterone levels.

His suspension, which was confirmed by a disciplinary hearing of the British Amateur Weight Lifting Association on 21 November, was revoked on appeal. The appeal committee which met on 13 March concluded that the standard procedure for verifying testosterone findings had not been carried out by either BAWLA or the UK Sports Council, the body responsible for the testing programme.

According to the International Olympic Committee doping rules under which BAWLA operates, any sample where the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio is greater than 6:1, the legal maximum, a further investigation and/or examination has to be carried out before findings can be declared a result.

A statement issued yesterday by Supple's legal representatives said the BAWLA appeal committee "decided that they were not satisfied that further examination had taken place and had therefore lifted the suspension." "We are considering whether any action should now be taken on Paul's behalf," said Fraser Reed, Supple's legal representative. "He has had to endure seven months of anxiety before his name has been cleared. It meant he had to miss last September's Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, where he would have been a potential medal winner.

"This case has shown up a lot of irregularities in the test procedure. It isn't clear whether the responsibility lies with the UKSC or BAWLA." A spokesman for the UKSC said he was unable to comment as the Council was still awaiting official notification of the appeal findings from BAWLA.

Three years ago, the most widely known case of an adverse testosterone finding concluded with a judgment which cleared athlete Diane Modahl of a four-year ban. Her defence also succeeded on procedural grounds, although in her case the irregularities centred on the incorrect storage of her sample by the organisation responsible, the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Doug Walker, who produced an adverse finding indicating illegal steroid levels in December, is expected to find out today whether he has a case to answer. The evidence was weighed yesterday by a UK Athletics committee comprising Michael Beloff QC, former British athlete and team manager, Joan Allison, and medical experts Professor Hugh Makin and Professor Vivian James.

The Scot, who won the European 200m title last summer, has not competed since the test was announced, even though he is legally able to. He has denied knowingly taking any banned substance.