Hemery hits back at drugs claims

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The Independent Online

The UK Athletics president, David Hemery, today insisted his organisation have not gone soft on drug cheats.

The UK Athletics president, David Hemery, today insisted his organisation have not gone soft on drug cheats.

British athletics' governing body have been stung by the criticism which followed the clearing of several competitors who tested positive for banned steroid nandrolone.

These included former Olympic 100 metres champion Linford Christie and last year's European 200m gold medallist Doug Walker.

But Hemery, the 1968 Olympic 400m hurdles champion, said: "I have real concern that some people believe that UK Athletics have gone soft on drug cheats. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"However, we have found ourselves in a very difficult situation. Our primary aim must be fairness to all athletes. This implies a level playing field, which requires regular out-of-competition drug testing.

"The athletes who have been found with nandrolone metabolites in their urine could not be proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

"The few positives are reported because we test. We can be proud of the fact that we police our sport and that 98.8% of all tests on athletes are clean.

"An International Amateur Athletic Federation Council member pointed out that the UK is one of only nine out of 213 member countries who do random out-of-competition testing. That is less than five per cent of all participating countries."

Now Hemery - who accepts that while UK Sport and IAAF testing procedures are good at finding traces of banned substances they do not identify what put them there - has announced an initiative which could see UK Athletics taking a leading role in research into supplements, metabolites and haematology.

Hemery said: "I am delighted UK Sport have agreed to have a large panel of top scientists look into the possible causes of these nandrolone findings. What we have not done well, so far, is to provide education of what can be taken."

UK Athletics is hoping the International Athletic Foundation will provide an initial grant of £32,000 when they meet later this month in Monte Carlo in an attempt to get to the bottom of the recent nandrolone findings which have caused worldwide concern.

Hemery said: "It is the intent of UK Athletics to be proactive in this situation. We will be asking the European Athletic Association for similar support.

"We have had a meeting with the new Sports Minister Kate Hoey, who is also strongly supportive of the action.

"I have asked her whether there could be interest from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to link us with one of the three EU priorities for this year - the problems of drugs in sport.

"In addition I have had conversations with a couple of multi-national companies, who are offering support in cash and kind for honesty and integrity to be renewed in sport."