Inside Lines: Big brother Vitali puts his title at risk in political punch-up

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The Independent Online

Who says sport and politics don't mix? Carl Lewis is the latest sports star to join the political fray following Imran Khan who aims to become president of Pakistan and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao who has similar ambitions in the Philippines, where he is a congressman.

Test cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya sit on opposite sides of the Sri Lankan parliament. Antonio Rattin, infamously sent off against England in the 1966 World Cup, became an MP in Argentina, where ex-Pumas rugby captain Hugo Porta served as sports minister, as did Olympic hurdler Guy Drut in France.

Back home we have the Tory lords and ex-MPs Seb Coe and Colin Moynihan while paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson is a Labour peer.

But one sporting politico you would not want to heckle is David Haye-conqueror Wladimir Klitschko's big brother Vitali, 40, who leads the opposition party Udar (which appropriately translates as Punch) in his native Ukraine.

Giant Vitali has even put his WBC heavyweight title at risk by breaking training for next Saturday's defence in Poland against Tomasz Adamek to sort a political punch-up back home back where, he says: "Ukrainians are living under a dictatorship and total corruption, and it is my duty to fight this." Someone should get readyto duck.

Oscar row still running

Sky News called at the weekend to ask if I would give my views on Oscar Pistorius competing with able-bodied counterparts at the current world athletics championships and possibly next year's London Olympics.

I readily obliged, endorsing the doubts expressed in this column about the validity of his presence running on manufactured legs. Subsequently I have been engulfed by a storm of emails, ranging from reasoned argument to near hysteria, suggesting there might be an athletics division of the more anarchic elements of the Animal Rights group.

One from someone with a distinctly South African-sounding moniker even likened me to Colonel Gaddafi. Another proposed that 400m runner Pistorius – and others who use similar prosthetic devices – should be allowed to compete unilaterally but their results not recorded.

Alternatively I suppose their results could have the same asterisk that follows a wind-assisted record. But instead of 'wa' it would be 'ta', (technology–assisted). But do we really want to turn athletics into a version of Formula One with boffins and their technology being more important than the athlete?

Pistorius's presence certainly confused the hapless Channel 4 presenter Ortis Deley – now axed – who said that the South African double amputee would be making history "in the 400 metres hurdles." Now that really would have been something.

Anglo-American warfare

British and American troops will be at war with each other next month. In the ring.

The historic military fisticuffs marks the return of boxing, after a decade, to London's Royal Albert Hall. Armed forces from the UK and the US will battle it out in aid of the charity Tickets for Troops on 7 October.

Promoter Frank Warren is negotiating for two Hollywood stars to act as non-punching captains of the respective teams. Sylvester 'Rocky' Stallone is an obvious candidate for the US but how about Sir Michael Caine to lead the GB squaddies?

He did a bit of boxing as a youngster. But not a lot of people know that...

Life's a beach for Denise

Denise Johns, GB beach volleyball player, is having an eventful summer. She and partner Lucy Boulton defeated the Chinese Olympic bronze medallists to reach semi-final of the Horse Guards Parade Olympic Test event.

She then planned to marry GB men's star Jody Gooding at a beach ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina today. But along came Hurricane Irene.

"We rented a little house on the beach and my biggest fear was that it would be reduced to a pile of sticks by the time we got there," she said. Luckily it was still standing.

They are marrying in Charleston as a half-way house between friends in Britain and Denise's family in Ohio. US-born Denise, 32, whose parents are British, chose the venue because "it's kind of quaint".

The wedding dress is traditional but her choice of footwear is also kind of quaint – flip-flops.