Athletics: Campbell backs Lewis-Francis over drug furore

Darren Campbell has called on the athletics community to get behind Mark Lewis-Francis, his fellow 4x100 metres Olympic relay gold medallist, who escaped a drugs ban last week and was selected yesterday for the relay in the Norwich Union International against the United States and Russia in Glasgow on 5 June.

Darren Campbell has called on the athletics community to get behind Mark Lewis-Francis, his fellow 4x100 metres Olympic relay gold medallist, who escaped a drugs ban last week and was selected yesterday for the relay in the Norwich Union International against the United States and Russia in Glasgow on 5 June.

Lewis-Francis was given a public warning and stripped of his medal on Monday after testing positive for cannabis when he won silver in the 60m at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid in March. The sprinter claimed he was the victim of passive inhalation, and UK Athletics accepted that the drug could not have been used to enhance his performance.

That has not stopped criticism of Lewis-Francis, who has struggled to live up to the potential he showed when winning the world junior 100m title five years ago. But Campbell, at 31 the elder statesman of the British relay squad, believes he should be allowed to get his career back on course.

"I just think it's done now, let's forget about it, let's encourage the guy and give him our full support," said Campbell, who finished third over 100m when opening his season in Rehlingen, Germany, on Monday night. "It's important that we get behind Mark because he is the future [of sprinting]. I just think the more we get on his back, the more we might lose him from the sport."

News that Lewis-Francis will not be used as an ambassador for the London 2012 Olympic bid as a result of the failed test drew scorn from his team-mate.

"I didn't even know we were ambassadors," Campbell said. "This is the whole thing. I don't really think anybody knows what is going on. When 2012 want us then they want us. Then when they don't, they don't." Asked whether he would take part in promotional work for London 2012 if Lewis-Francis was excluded, Campbell replied: "No."

The stance comes from the comradeship of Campbell, Lewis-Francis, Jason Gardener and Marlon Devonish, who endured some bad press before winning gold in Athens.

"When we go to the palace for our MBEs we will go as a team," said the former Olympic 200m silver medallist, who has been training in Australia with Devonish. "That's how it is. We won the medal and we move forward as a team."

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