Athletics: Myerscough sees slow road to Olympic redemption

The irony could hardly have been more acute. While Ashia Hansen was being carried out of the Zawiska Stadion on a stretcher and out of Olympic contention yesterday, Carl Myerscough was celebrating the first British win of the weekend at the European Cup. Like the stricken Hansen, Myerscough will not be going for gold, silver or bronze in Athens in August. The drugs test he failed as a schoolboy precludes the shot-putting giant - the 6ft 10in, 24st "Blackpool Tower" - from representing Britain in an Olympic Games.

The irony could hardly have been more acute. While Ashia Hansen was being carried out of the Zawiska Stadion on a stretcher and out of Olympic contention yesterday, Carl Myerscough was celebrating the first British win of the weekend at the European Cup. Like the stricken Hansen, Myerscough will not be going for gold, silver or bronze in Athens in August. The drugs test he failed as a schoolboy precludes the shot-putting giant - the 6ft 10in, 24st "Blackpool Tower" - from representing Britain in an Olympic Games.

Back in 1999, while a pupil at Millfield School, Myerscough tested positive for two anabolic steroids and for an excessive amount of testosterone. He returned to competition after serving a two-year ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations but has failed in an appeal to overturn the life-ban imposed on convicted drug-takers by the British Olympic Association.

After winning yesterday with a last-round effort of 20.85m, and becoming the first British shot-put winner at a European Cup since Geoff Capes in 1975, the 23-year-old Lancastrian announced that he had given up the fight to gain clearance to compete in Athens.

"I could have taken it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport," he said. "My chances would have been 50-50, but the BOA made it clear they would have claimed expenses from me if I had lost, and their costs could have come to hundreds of thousands of pounds. I would have gone bankrupt and I couldn't take that risk. I'm basing myself in the United States - I want to get residency - and I couldn't do that if go bankrupt."

Myerscough has been studying fine art at the University of Nebraska for the past five years, and last year mooted the possibility of switching international allegiance to the United States. "I have no intention of doing that," he said. "There will be other Olympics. I see no reason why I couldn't be cleared to compete in future."

For the immediate future, though, Myerscough will have to find motivation without Athens on his agenda this summer. "I've got other competitions I can focus on," he said. "I'll be competing at Gateshead next week and in the AAA Championships [which incorporate the Olympic trials]. I'll probably go to the United States in August and maybe go on holiday when the Olympics are on."

Myerscough will not be the only member of his family missing out on Athens. His wife, US hammer-thrower Melissa Price, is under suspension, having tested positive for the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, known as THG. She was caught after the launch of the federal investigation into the alleged trafficking of performance- enhancing drugs by Victor Conte, owner of the Balco laboratories in California.

The case took a further twist yesterday, with Cristina Aguedas, the lawyer acting on behalf of Tim Montgomery, making the suggestion that the holder of the men's 100m world record could have been implicated in the investigation because of a grudge held by the Conte. Announcing that she had submitted "a detailed response" to "a number of unfounded allegations" against Montgomery outlined in a letter from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Aguedas added: "Virtually all of the allegations included in USADA's letter come from the files of Victor Conte, an individual who has been indicted on 35 separate counts of felony violations of federal law, and who had a well-known and bitter falling-out with Tim around the same time most of these documents were created."

Referring to the initials "TM" found on a calendar next to alleged code words for drugs, Aguedas said: "At best they are evidence that some other individual, perhaps Conte, desired that Tim take certain substances on certain days."

Her statement came after news of the latest attempt to clear the name of Marion Jones, Montgomery's partner, in the affair. According to Jones's lawyer, Joe Burton, she passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent, with the machine registering no flicker when she denied ever having used performance-enhancing drugs. Jones is due to compete in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Gateshead next Sunday.

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