Britain's fragile prospects of success at the European Championships which start here today were dealt a crushing blow last night with the news that Christine Ohuruogu, the athlete who seemed to sum up everything that was hopeful about UK Athletics in winning the Commonwealth 400m title five months ago, had incurred a suspension for a doping irregularity.
Ohuruogu last night claimed changes to her training schedule had led to her missing three out-of-competition drug tests. UKA announced that the 22-year-old had been provisionally suspended for missing three tests in the past 18 months.
UKA said the provisional suspension should be viewed as a case to answer rather than an indication of guilt, but its anti-doping co-ordinator has found sufficient evidence of an anti-doping rule violation to invoke its disciplinary procedure.
A UKA statement read: "This rule provides that if an athlete is evaluated as having missed three out-of-competition tests in a period of 18 months from the date of the first missed test, an anti-doping rule violation has been committed.
"In this case the first out-of-competition test was 12 October 2005. UKA will be dealing with this matter in accordance with its rules and procedures and the case will now be put to an independent disciplinary committee to decide if an anti-doping violation has been committed. The panel will be convened as soon as is practical."
Ohuruogu issued her own statement last night explaining why she says she missed the tests, which are mandatory under drug regulations. "I am fortunate enough to be considered one of Britain's élite athletes and I take this responsibility very seriously," she said.
"One of these is to adhere to the regulations imposed on competing athletes, including rule number 32.2 (d), which is to make my whereabouts known for one hour every day, 365 days a year. Due to changes in my training schedule, I was unable to fulfil this obligation on three occasions, hence, my current suspension."
It had seemed possible for several weeks that Ohuruogu would not be able to compete at these Championships because of Achilles tendon problems, but she has worked tenaciously to regain a level of fitness that offered her a chance at least of reaching the final here, even if she was unlikely to attain the level she found in Melbourne when she beat Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling in a personal best of 50.38sec.
Ohuruogu's situation also resonates damagingly in terms of the 2012 London Olympics, given that she lives minutes from the proposed stadium in Stratford and has been portrayed more than once as a likely medallist on her home turf. It is hard to think of any other athlete for whom a connection with doping irregularities could be worse news for UKA, which will no doubt be hoping that she can convince the independent review panel that there is no case to answer.
Meanwhile, Dwain Chambers, whose 100m gold four years ago was stripped from him after his doping ban, intends to run in today's opening heats and see how the thigh injury which forced him out of the trials responds.
Finally, Linford Christie, present here as a newly appointed mentor for UKA, has had his position questioned by former world mile record holder Steve Cram.
Cram raised the issue of Christie's ineligibility for involvement in future Olympics following his doping ban. "It begs the question if he does end up with some strong relationship with our sprinters, what is the point if somewhere in the future he isn't going to be involved?'' Cram said.
Today's highlights: 9.10am Start of heptathlon (100m hurdles); 9.35am Men's 100m heats; 5.45pm Men's shot final; 7.10pm Women's 10,000m final.