Athletics: White threatened with ban over drugs test

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The Independent Online

Kelli White is already scarred for life. Back in 1994 the American sprinter was the victim of an unprovoked knife attack while she was waiting on a platform at a train station near her Union City home in San Francisco Bay.

Her face was slashed from her forehead above her left eyebrow, across her nose, down to an inch below her left eye. The cut required more than 300 stitches to close. She very nearly lost an eye.

It was White's new-found reputation that was left wounded yesterday, after the winner of the women's sprint double awoke to read a report in the French daily sports paper L'Equipe that she had tested positive for the stimulant modafinil. A psycho-stimulant which boosts the nervous system, the substance is not yet named on the list of pharmacological items banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations or the International Olympic Committee, but it falls into the category of "related substances". And, as such, White faces the prospect of being stripped of her medals and being issued with a two-year suspension.

The IAAF confirmed L'Equ-ipe's report that the 26-year-old American ­ who shares the same coach as Dwain Chambers, the Ukrainian sprint guru Remi Korchemny, and who is a training partner of the British sprinter ­ had given the positive test after her victory in the 100m final in the Stade de France last Sunday. In mitigation, an emotional White said last night, after withdrawing from the United States team for the 4 x 100m relay final, that she had taken the substance on prescription after being diagnosed as suffering from the sleep disorder narcolepsy.

"Close members of my family have been under doctors' care for the condition for years," she said. "I too have been diagnosed with this condition by my physician, Dr Brian Goldman.

"He proscribed the drug Provigil, and I have taken it on an as-needs basis. It has improved the condition in my day-to-day life and helped me function normally. I have never taken any substance to enhance my performance."

Professor Arne Ljungqvist, senior vice-president of the IAAF, earlier disclosed that White had not declared her use of the medication on the form she signed before providing a urine sample, which could have serious implications. "She should have declared she was taking this substance," Professor Ljung-qvist said. "She did not. She should have asked for prior exemption. She did not."

In response, White said: "The reason I did not declare it on my doping control form was because I do not take it every day. Given that it was not on the banned list, I think it is understandable that I did not realise I needed to declare it on my doping control form."

White's case will be referred to her national governing body, USA Track and Field, and any action taken against her will depend not just on the medical evidence she supplies but also on clarification of modafinil's status.

"There is evidence that modafinil is being used as a doping substance," Ljungqvist said. "It is a memory-improving, mood-enhancing psycho-stimulant. It is being used in clinical practice in place of low-dosage amphet-amines. We need to have more information in this case before we reach a conclusion.

"I would not pre-empt a decision, but it is an embarrassment to the athlete that this was neither declared nor an exemption requested. If the action taken by USATF meets with IAAF approval, all well and good. Case closed. If not, we could call in the Court for Arbitration in Sport."

White had been due to go for her third gold in the 4 x 100m relay final but was withdrawn from the US team after the IAAF appraised USATF of the implication of her running and then being banned. That would have involved the loss of her medals from the 100m and 200m, and also disqualification of the US team from the relay. Torri Edwards ran the anchor leg instead, and was overtaken by Christine Arron as the French quartet won gold.

It is not the first time White has fallen foul of the drug- testing system. She was banned from competing in France from January to June this year after testing positive at the Parisian Golden League meeting last summer for triamcinolone acetonide. The steroid, which is used in asthma inhalers, is banned by the French authorities but does not feature on the IAAF list.