Athletics: Ohuruogu nearly missed fourth test

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The Independent Online

Christine Ohuruogu very nearly missed another doping test while she was serving her year's suspension, it was revealed yesterday.

Her coach Lloyd Cowan said he had to drive testers acting on behalf of the International Association of Athletics Federations to her house near Stratford after they had failed to link up with her after attending a training session at the Picketts Lock High Performance Centre in February.

Had Cowan not acted so swiftly, Ohuruogu would have had to return to competition with one strike already against her in terms of missed tests, something which may have affected the deliberations of the panel which cleared her to return to the Olympic fold on Monday. An IAAF official said yesterday that in the event of an athlete missing a test in such circumstances, it would be treated in the same way as if it had occurred while they were eligible for competition.

Athletes seeking to return to competition after doping suspensions have to pass three doping tests, each three months apart, before passing a final test for all substances including EPO. According to IAAF sources, Dwain Chambers had to delay his return to competition after his two-year ban for another three months as he had not passed three tests in the required timeframe.

Cowan recalled the circumstances of Ohuruogu's close shave yesterday. "The testers were sitting up in the bleachers while Christine was training, watching all the athletes getting on with things, but they didn't make themselves known," he recalled. "When we found out who they were Christine had gone. They thought she was coming back, but I told them she had gone home. I didn't even wait to ring her – I drove the guys straight over to her house."

Cowan believes that the incident highlights the perilous situation facing athletes who are expected to provide doping authorities with their whereabouts for one hour a day on five days out of every seven.

While the penalty for competitors in other sports for failing to be present on three occasions is a three-month ban, athletes have to serve a year's suspension. They are also at a disadvantage in that their offences remain on their record for five years, whereas most sports operating with the World Anti Doping Agency rules have an equivalent period of 18 months.

Ed Warner, who sat alongside Ohuruogu at yesterday's press conference, announced that contrary to some reports, there were only three British track and field athletes currently on two missed tests, of whom one is known to be European 800m bronze medallist, Becky Lyne. He added that if, as expected, WADA standardise the offence period to 18 months when their new rule ratifications are implemented in the New Year, then none of the three concerned will still be on two tests.

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