Leading agents refuse to represent 'serious dopers'

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The Independent Online

The hardening stance taken recently against doping by meeting promoters is being mirrored by a similar resolve among agents, according to a leading athletes' representative.

Speaking on the eve of today's Grand Prix in Birmingham, from which Dwain Chambers, making a controversial second return to the sport after testing positive for the banned steroid THG, is excluded, Mark Wetmore confirmed that 30 leading agents have agreed not to represent athletes who have served serious doping bans.

"We are all members of the Association of Athletics Managers, and we have unanimously decided that we will no longer represent athletes who have served bans for two years or more," said the US-based Wetmore, whose clients include the world 100m champion Tyson Gay, the world 110m hurdles record-holder Liu Xiang and the leading Ethiopian distance runners Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba.

"You hear such sweeping statements being made about the sport – that doping is all the fault of the coaches, or of the agents – and we wanted to make it clear to people that we didn't have anything to do with it. We take this issue very seriously and we feel we have to make a stand. I think you are seeing groups independently coming to the same conclusions right now. The meeting promoters and the agents are now shoulder-to-shoulder against doping."

Wetmore confirmed that he would no longer be representing the Ghanain sprinter Aziz Zakari, who is currently serving a two-year ban.

Other leading agents who have signed up to this agreement include Ricky Simms, Emmanuel Hudson, Paul Doyle, Renaldo Nehemiah – who guided the career of the banned Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin – Daniel Wessfeldt, Pavel Voronkov, Mostaza Martinez and John Regis, who worked with Chambers.

Simms, whose clients include Mark Lewis-Francis, said: "I think this move will be an extra deterrent for those people who think they can get away with doping. Perhaps UK Athletics are attempting to go down a similar route. But what is important now is that other countries become as stringent in anti-doping as the British authorities."

But as yet another avenue appears to be closing ahead of the beleaguered former European 100m champion, there was a lessening of pressure on him yesterday as the decision to keep him out of this summer's three main domestic events was put on hold until Tanni Grey-Thompson has completed her forthcoming review of UK Athletics doping policy.

Fast Track, who organise the meetings on behalf of UKA, are supportive of the stance being taken by the event organisers body "Euromeetings", which has banned athletes returning from serious doping offences from competing in all of its 51 events. But according to Fast Track's director of communications Steve Chisholm, the promoters feel it would be "inappropriate" to decide on a policy until after Grey-Thompson's due process.

In the absence of trials winner Chambers from today's Grand Prix, there should have been an opportunity for Craig Pickering, Simeon Williamson and Ryan Scott to contest the second 60m place at next month's World Indoor Championships.

But Pickering, the European indoor silver medallist, is absent through sickness, although he hopes to be well enough to run in Paris on Friday. So now Williamson, who has been training alongside Chambers, and Pickering's training partner Scott – who lowered his personal best by 0.04sec to 6.59 when second in Athens on Wednesday – will front the race.

Both, however, know they are not guaranteed selection, with UKA's performance director Dave Collins stressing all performances from would-be contenders will be considered until the 24February entry deadline.

Kenenisa Bekele plans to attack the two-miles world record of 8min 4.69sec set by his fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie at the 2003 meeting.

The European 5,000m silver medallist Mo Farah intends to cling on for as long as he can and is adamant he can beat John Mayock's six-year-old UK record of 8min 17.06sec.

Susanna Kallur has the ability to lower again the 60m hurdles world record she set in Karlsruhe last Sunday, but Meseret Defar has withdrawn from her attempt at bettering her two-miles world record because of sickness.

There will be an absorbing three-event competition between the multi-event giants Carolina Kluft – who is still undecided about defending her heptathlon title in Beijing – and Kelly Sotherton, who go head to head over 400m, 60m hurdles and long jump.

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