Athletics: No love from Tullett as reinstated Russian wins

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The Independent Online

Two years ago Hayley Tullett stood with Paula Radcliffe in the stands of the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton waving a cardboard banner which proclaimed, "EPO cheats out". Yesterday she lined up in the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi here alongside the target of her protest. Olga Yegorova, the Russian "EPO cheat", was not out but in the 3,000m race at the European Cup. And, as in the world championship 5,000m final two years ago, there was nothing Tullett or any other objector could do about it.

In an ideal world, Yegorova would have been at home in Moscow, serving the remainder of a two-year suspension. But, then, in the real world of the rule books and the courts, the International Association of Athletics Federations could do nothing other than waive her ban when it came to light that a positive urine test she gave for erythropoietin at the Golden League meeting in Paris in 2001 had not been backed up by a blood sample. So, yesterday, Yegorova sprinted to victory in the home straight - with Tullett in second place.

For much the same reasons, UK Athletics can do little but give Denise Lewis their blessing, tacit or otherwise, in using Dr Ekkart Arbeit as one of her personal coaches. Dr Arbeit might have been head coach in the East German regime that systematically administered steroids to athletes, but he was never tried in a court for his involvement and he has not been banned from working as a coach because of it.

In an ideal world, UK Athletics would not grant someone with such a tainted background accreditation to assist Lewis at the European Cup for Combined Events in Tallinn next month. But then that would leave them open to an accusation of selective discrimination. Linford Christie, who failed a test for the anabolic steroid nandrolone in 1999, was enlisted as a British team coach earlier this year and is in Florence to help several of his charges, among them Joice Maduaka, who finished fourth in the 100m yesterday, and Katharine Merry, who returns to international action after a two-year absence in the 4 x 400m relay this afternoon.

The truth is, having seen their predecessors, the British Athletic Federation, bankrupted by the fight to prosecute Diane Modahl, UK Athletics cannot afford to take a moral stance. As David Moorcroft, chief executive of the domestic body, admitted yesterday: "As a governing body, in this litigious age we have to take into consideration the legal implications. As a governing body, we have to take into consideration the legal implications. We did put it to our legal advisers, and the recommendation they gave us was fairly clear. That was a very important part of our decision-making process.

"Whatever reservations any of us have, it's best to express those to the individuals concerned, but we act as a governing body, within our rules. We may have opinions on many people. It may be coaches. It may be athletes. It may be agents. It may be anybody. But we work within our rules."

Lynn Davies, the president of UK Athletics, added: "It's not as if we're employing Ekkart Arbeit. We're not paying him. We're just recognising that this is a personal choice by Denise and her coach, Frank Dick. I took the matter to our five-person council and Jonathan Edwards made a good point when he said it is now 14 years since the demise of the eastern European countries and, almost taking a Christian approach, he believes it is time to move on. He said it was time for some rehabilitation rather than recrimination, and we went along with this approach."

There were athletes on the track and in the field here yesterday rehabilitating after being caught in the drug-testing net. Britain's own Carl Myerscough, runner-up in the shot yesterday, tested positive for steroids in 1999. He claimed his urine sample had been sabotaged by a rival. Dieter Baumann, the German runner who finished third in the 5,000m, tested positive for nandrolone three years ago. He insisted his toothpaste had been spiked.

Both men served two-year bans - unlike Olga Yegorova, a winner by default in Florence yesterday.