Drug checks on syringe found at Crystal Palace

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The Independent Online

Drug investigators testing a container and syringe found hidden in the cistern of a toilet during the British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace will be aided by the fact the phial was full, it emerged yesterday.

The container and syringe were discovered by cleaners in the athletes' toilets and passed to Sport England, who own the venue. It was initially reported that the container was empty but Sport England have confirmed it was full, making the testing procedure much easier.

A Sport England spokes-woman said: "Staff found the syringe and phial, which was full of an unknown substance, during a routine clean of the loos in the competitors' area and we have passed them on to UK Sport's doping control unit."

The substance may be found to be legal, but the fact that someone had gone to the trouble of concealing them in a toilet cistern has troubled athletics chiefs. They believe that either an athlete discovered an illegal substance in their kit and decided to get rid of the incriminating evidence in case it was spotted, or that it was a legal drug that the athlete felt embarrassed about having among their equipment in case it raised doubts in others' minds.

The world 100 metres record holder, Maurice Greene, has criticised a new starting rule which the International Amateur Athletic Federation is hoping to introduce in 2003.

Less than an hour after arriving in Edmonton for his bid to win a third successive 100m crown at the World Championships, which start on Friday, Greene challenged plans for a change in the false start system. "It ain't going to stop me in what I'm going to do here. Now's not the time to worry about it. But they should have left it alone."

At its Council meeting on Monday, the IAAF and its technical committee decided to recommend to yesterday's Con- gress meeting that in races up to 400 metres one false start will be allowed, but any athlete subsequently false starting will be disqualified immediately.

"At least that's an improvement on the earlier one," said Emmanuel Hudson, the manager of Greene and the star-studded HSI team of sprinters.

Originally the IAAF Council intended asking Congress to approve a "sudden death" disqualification for athletes making a false start in the sprint events.

Greene and his fellow American Marion Jones, the Olympic 100m and 200m gold medallist, have headed athletes' protests against that proposal.

Istvan Gyulai, the IAAF general secretary, said: "In the Council meeting there were two proposals ­ no false starts or one false start, like in swimming. At the meeting in March, Council supported the first option. But after trials and evaluations it was decided this was not a good thing. We will recommend the second option to Congress."

Britain's Mark Richardson, who won a silver medal in the 4x400m relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, called the proposasl "ridiculous". He said: "It will really take away from the spirit of the event. False starts add to the drama. They are doing it maybe for television instead of for the athletes."

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