Christine Arron, one of the favourites to win the 100 metres gold at the World Championships starting in Helsinki on Saturday, has claimed she would have won more medals had she not competed against drugs cheats.
"I think it happened often, very often even," Arron said when asked whether she thought she had sometimes been beaten by athletes using banned performance-enhancing substances.
Arron has not won a major individual title since she took gold at the 1998 European Championships in 10.73sec, a European record that still stands.
"I think doping [by other athletes] deprived me of a medal at World Championships," said the 31-year-old Frenchwoman, whose best result at World Championships was fourth place over 100 metres in 1997.
The four World Championships Arron has contested have seen medals won by athletes who have subsequently fallen foul of the doping authorities, including Ekaterina Thanou, who is facing charges after being suspended along with her fellow Greek Konstantinos Kederis on the eve of the Athens Games for failing to submit to a test. Kelli White, winner of the 100m at the 2003 World Championships, has since been suspended for doping offences.
Marion Jones, the winner in 1997 and 1999 and silver medallist behind Ukraine's Zhanna Pintusevich-Block in 2001, is currently embroiled in the doping scandal involving the Balco laboratory in San Francisco, though she has never failed a drug test.
The United States will this week urge the International Association of Athletics Federations to impose life bans on any athlete testing positive for steroids. The US motion is one of around 300 tabled for debate at a two-day meeting of the IAAF Congress starting in Helsinki tomorrow. But IAAF officials expect legal considerations to prevent a change to the current system, whereby first-time offenders receive a two-year ban, with lifetime bans following a second offence.
The congress will also consider disallowing any false-starts from races.