Thomas given freedom to run his own race

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The Independent Online

Iwan Thomas had his head up in the clouds yesterday. The day after his 11th-hour addition to the World Championship 400m field, the British record holder was on his way to Edmonton in a state of high excitement. Whether he will be flying when he gets to run in the Commonwealth Stadium remains to be seen.

The son of an RAF wing commander, Thomas has been struggling to get his career back off the ground this summer following two years of injury troubles. Not until Wednesday night did he achieve the Edmonton qualifying standard, scraping inside it by 0.02sec with a time of 45.70sec in a British Milers' Club meeting at Watford.

For a man who clocked 44.36sec when he broke Roger Black's British record in 1997, and who ran 44.52sec to win the European and Commonwealth titles in the following year, it was a long way from the best of times. It was, however, confirmation of the 27-year-old's determination to make up lost ground.

Merely getting into the 400m for Edmonton has been a famous victory for Thomas – snatched from the defeat of failing to beat the qualifying time before last Tuesday's deadline. Thomas blew his last chance of doing that when he crossed the line fifth in 45.82sec in the Norwich Union British Grand Prix at Crystal Palace last Sunday.

It was principally to prove a point to himself that he persuaded the British Milers' Club to allow him to arrange a 400m race at their meeting on Wednesday. Only when he beat the clock at Watford was he informed that the withdrawal of Daniel Caines had opened one of the three British 400m berths – and after 48 hours of deliberation the International Amateur Athletic Federation allowed Thomas to fill it.

"Organising that race was one of the best things I've ever done," Thomas said. "I've had two years of hell. I've had so many injuries and setbacks and it looked as though I hadn't made it. But I have got a chance now. The times I have been running in races haven't reflected how well I have been going in training I know I am going to get faster. You don't become a bad athlete overnight."

In the case of Olga Yegorova, you do. On Thursday it was announced that the world indoor 3,000m champion had become the first athlete to fail an in-competition test for erythropoietin. The banned blood-boosting drug was detected in a sample taken from the 29-year-old Russian three weeks ago at the Golden League meeting in Paris, where she sliced almost 10 seconds from her previous best 3,000m time, clocking 8min 23.75sec, the third fastest ever by a European.

Having lost out to Yegorova's blistering sprint finish in Rome last month and in Glasgow on 1 July, Paula Radcliffe – a long-time campaigner against the use of EPO – has greeted the news with particular interest. "I am surprised she was caught but not surprised she was using the stuff," Radcliffe said. "Yegorova looked so fresh at the end of races it wasn't natural. I think it's great that she's been caught." Not that the British 10,000m contender would have had to catch Yegorova in Edmonton. The Russian was entered for the 5,000m.

The American 5,000m record holder, Bob Kennedy, has withdrawn from the championships because he has been suffering from an underactive thyroid and an iron deficiency.