Panel explains dismissal of UK drug study

The International Amateur Athletic Federation arbitration panel has disputed the objectivity of a British study into the anabolic steroid, nandrolone.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation arbitration panel has disputed the objectivity of a British study into the anabolic steroid, nandrolone.

The study, conducted by Professor Ron Maughan at Aberdeen University, found that dietary supplements which did not contain banned substances combined with vigorous exercise could produce excessive nandrolone metabolites.

On Monday the panel, which had heard evidence from Professor Maughan, banned former Olympic 100 metres champion, Linford Christie, European 200m champion, Doug Walker, and former 400m hurdler, Gary Cadogan, for two years after positive tests for nandrolone. The trio had been cleared by the British governing body, UK Athletics.

In an article in the IAAF's official newsletter, the federation's general secretary, Istvan Gyulai, said the panel had found several weak points in the study.

"Professor Maughan's research could not be regarded as an independent study because he is a member of the UKA disciplinary committee which heard the cases of Walker, Christie and Cadogan," Gyulai said. He said the study sample was too small to produce a reliable result, the subjects had not been kept in a controlled and supervised environment and not all the supplements had been tested

Gyulai also confirmed Christie had tested positive for a level of nandrolone 100 times over the accepted limit.

He said Walker had returned a level of 12.59 nanograms a millilitre, Cadogan 10.6 ng/ml and Christie 200 ng/ml. The accepted limit for men is 2 ng/ml.

Christie has withdrawn his request for accreditation to coach his athletes at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney next month, but the British Olympic Association comfirmed yesterday that he will be alowed access to those whose careers he directs - including Darren Campbell, Jamie Baulch and Katharine Merry - at the British holding camp on the Gold Coast.

"Linford Christie has acted professionally in the interests of his athletes," said Craig Reedie of the BOA.

This represents a compromise following the IAAF's recent dicison to overturn Christie's clearance by UK Athletics on nandrolone charges.

Two years ago, Marie-Jose Perec could not lift herself out of bed or climb a flight of stairs. Doctors told the Olympic sprint champion she would never run again. Back from a debilitating viral illness, the twice 400 metres champion has proven her doctors wrong and said she is ready for the Olympic Games.

Winning the event in Sydney would be an unprecedented feat, making the Guadeloupe-born runner the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals in the same athletics event.

"This race is very special for me," Perec said. "Nobody has ever done this before. I want to win that race in Sydney. I want to make history."

But simply returning to Olympic competition is a triumph for Perec, who overcame a rare form of glandular fever linked to the Epstein Barr virus. She has, in her own words, returned "from death," and hopes her example will inspire others struggling with illness.

"Some days it's so hard, you wake up and you look into the darkness and ask yourself, 'Am I going to get out of this?' But you need to believe. You have to fight and don't give up."

Perec's relationship with the 400m is a tortuous one: she describes it as "draining" and "painful" and may stop racing after the Olympics.

Enormously popular in France, Perec is known as"la Gazelle" for her graceon the track and model-like beauty. She has dominated the event for much of the last decade, winning gold in Barcelona in 1992 and again in Atlanta in 1996, where she also won the 200m.

In 1998, at the peak of her career, Perec was diagnosed with a rare type of Epstein Barr syndrome, which causes chronic fatigue, affects the heart and can be fatal.

"I was very, very tired all the time. I was sleepy and I couldn't climb a flight of stairs," Perec said. Lying in bed, she felt her heart race at 130 beats per minute, up from her usual resting pulse of 58.

During three months of treatment, doctors pumped Perec with cortisone, and her athletic, muscle-toned frame ballooned from 58 kilograms to 72kg. "I felt like I was inside somebody else's body," Perec said. "You know you're taking all this medicine to get better, but I felt like I was destroying myself."