Skiing: Baxter faces uphill battle

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The International Olympic Commission warned Alain Baxter yesterday that it is "extremely unlikely" he will be able to prove his innocence at the forthcoming hearing over his positive drugs test.

The Scottish skier claimed the bronze medal in the men's slalom at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City but tested positive for methamphetamine, and will now face the IOC's medical panel this week, possibly on Wednesday in Zurich.

Amid suggestions that Baxter's use of a nasal spray or inhaler could have led to the positive test, the IOC's professor Arne Ljundqvist said the skier is unlikely to be able to prove he did not take drugs.

"Once you test positive for banned substances, you're in a very difficult position to clear yourself," he explained. "It's very rare they actually tell us the full story or admit they have taken this or that. Some come up with various types of stories and I would say its extremely unlikely a person can prove they haven't taken anything."

However, the British Olympic Association are determined to offer a strong defence of Baxter. The BOA's Konrad Bartelski said: "The only way I can imagine it got into his system is through a small nasal spray or inhaler.

"His defence is being handled in the best possible way by the BOA. We don't even know how much of it was in his body. To have a trace of speed is not cheating. If it had an influence on his performance, fine, but he's not intentionally cheating and trying to deceive as speed is not a drug that can help a ski racer.

"My blood is boiling because we are destroying a very fine person by this and the tragedy is that an innocent person has got caught," Bartelski added.

* The season ended on Sunday with the French taking both the men's World Cup giant slalom title and the women's slalom crown. Frederic Covili became the first Frenchman since Patrick Russel 30 years ago to win the giant slalom, while Laure Pequegnot's slalom trophy was her country's first since Perrine Pelen in 1980. The final races were won by the Swiss Michael von Gruenigen and Croatia's Janica Kostelic.