Athletics: Olympic 'icon' is banned over series of missed drug tests

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The Independent Online

The Olympic aspirations of Christine Ohuruogu, whose home in Stratford is within a mile of the site of the stadium that will host the 2012 Games, lay in ruins last night as she was ruled to have missed three out-of-competition doping tests.

Under British Olympic Association rules, she is now ineligible to run in any future Games.

The 23-year-old linguistics graduate, who won the Commonwealth 400 metres title in March, was the perfect athlete to promote London's Olympic efforts - a positive symbol of multicultural Britain who was tipped to reach the podium.

Here, it seemed, was a young Briton apparently ready to play a similar role to that of Cathy Freeman, who lit the flame for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and then delivered a home victory in the 400 metres.

But an independent disciplinary committee announced yesterday that she had committed a doping violation in failing to be present for testing on three occasions when she had guaranteed availability, and would receive a year's ban. Crucially, she has now fallen foul of the BOA byelaw which renders any athlete receiving a serious doping suspension ineligible for the Olympics.

Ohuruogu is the first athlete to have been punished under international regulations established last summer which mean athletes must let drugs testers know where and when they will be available for one hour, five days a week. Missing three tests in an 18-month period counts as a doping violation infringement and is treated as a failed test.

Ohuruogu, who missed the first test on 12 October last year, was also unavailable for the vital third test just prior to last month's European Championships in Gothenburg.

The three-man committee, chaired by Charles Flint QC, was unanimous in its decision, although it pointed out that Ohuruogu was guilty of a minor infraction due to "forgetfulness".

After failing to be where she had said she would be on a second occasion, Ohuruogu received a letter from UK Athletics warning her that any further violation would see her facing suspension. She was in the process of replying to this warning when she incurred her third missed appointment.

"I have been penalised as a result of an enforced change to my training schedule" Ohuruogu said yesterday. "This change was due to my attempt to overcome an injury, which threatened to prevent me competing for my country at the European Championships.The Committee confirmed that there is no suggestion of me intentionally avoiding any tests and that this was a minor unintentional infraction of the regime. I therefore feel strongly that my exclusion from the European Championships was adequate punishment for this offence."

She said she would now have to "rationally consider" her future in athletics.

Ohuruogu shares her Stratford home with her mother and seven other siblings, of whom she is the second eldest. She is believed to have asked testers not to come to her home after a previous visit upset one of her brothers.

She now has the option of appealing, but as a former England under-19 netballer she may be contemplating an alternative sport.

John Scott, of UK Sport, defended the ban, and said: "It sends out a strong signal to all athletes that making themselves available for testing is a key requirement on them, and they must ensure they deliver."

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