Richardson's hopes hinge on two vital dates

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The Independent Online

The glee with which Mark Richardson acknowledged the applause which greeted him at Crystal Palace on Saturday said everything about how he felt to be back in competitive action for the first time since being cleared of nandrolone charges last month by UK Athletics. Well, almost everything.

The glee with which Mark Richardson acknowledged the applause which greeted him at Crystal Palace on Saturday said everything about how he felt to be back in competitive action for the first time since being cleared of nandrolone charges last month by UK Athletics. Well, almost everything.

After finishing third in the hugely encouraging time of 45.11sec, Richardson now has two vital entries in his diary. The first comes next weekend when he will attempt to qualify at the Olympic trials in Birmingham; the second will involve an International Amateur Athletic Federation hearing at which his whole career may yet be turned upside down once again.

The UK Athletics decision was based on evidence that nandrolone levels can rise beyond currently admissible levels purely through exercise, evidence generated in research funded by the IAAF. But subsequent IAAF reaction to the findings, including deeply sceptical comments from the head of the IAAF Doping Commission, Professor Arne Ljungqvist, made it appear likely that Richardson's current freedom to compete may be nullified.

"There is still an air of uncertainty with everything," Richardson said. "I don't think anyone knows what direction this is going to go in. At times it has seemed farcical. The IAAF funded the nandrolone review. They now appear to be in the process of invalidating it. So why fund it in the first case?

This, and many other questions, remain a puzzle to the 28-year-old Windsor athlete who maintains he has never taken any prohibited substance.

Despite all the uncertainty, however, Richardson derived nothing but intense satisfaction on Saturday for what was a plunge into the unknown, given that his last meaningful competition had occurred almost a year earlier. "I didn't know what to expect but I am really pleased with the way I ran and hopefully I can get quicker and quicker."

He went on to thank all those involved with him for the support they had given him, including all the competitors in Saturday's race, which was won by Jamaica's Greg Haughton in 44.91.

"I feel rejuvenated," said Richardson, who admitted that if the UK verdict had not gone his way he was actively considering leaving the sport and taking up rugby union. "I would have been very bitter if I had been forced out of the sport not having done anything wrong," he said. "The main thing for me is that my name has been vindicated by science." It remains to be seen what politics now do to it.

COUNTDOWN TO SYDNEY

11 Aug: Zurich Golden League 12-13 Aug: British Olympic trials, Birmingham 18 Aug: Monte Carlo Golden League 25 Aug: Brussels Golden League 28 Aug: Gateshead Grand Prix 1 Sept: Berlin Golden League 15 Sept: Olympic Games start

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