Tout bobs up toput BOA on spot

Inside lines

Mark Tout, who was Britain's ace bobsleigher until he tested positive for steroids, has made an astonishing comeback. Less than two weeks after completing the four-year ban imposed by the British Bobsleigh Association, he and his former brakeman, Dean Ward, have won Britain's two-man bob selection trials in Lillehammer, Norway, which puts the former Army corporal Tout, now 39, firmly in the driving seat for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It is a situation that has left the sport gobsmacked, for Team Tout finished ahead of seven rival crews, including the one piloted by Sean Olsson, the man who replaced him and led Britain to a bronze medal in Nagano. Tout's stunning victory on Friday came after only six days of preparation and in a bob borrowed from the Swiss. Now he plans to repeat the performance in Thursday's four-man event, leaving the British Olympic Association with an acute dilemma. For, under their rules, all proven drugs cheats automatically receive lifetime bans from Olympic selectio

Mark Tout, who was Britain's ace bobsleigher until he tested positive for steroids, has made an astonishing comeback. Less than two weeks after completing the four-year ban imposed by the British Bobsleigh Association, he and his former brakeman, Dean Ward, have won Britain's two-man bob selection trials in Lillehammer, Norway, which puts the former Army corporal Tout, now 39, firmly in the driving seat for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It is a situation that has left the sport gobsmacked, for Team Tout finished ahead of seven rival crews, including the one piloted by Sean Olsson, the man who replaced him and led Britain to a bronze medal in Nagano. Tout's stunning victory on Friday came after only six days of preparation and in a bob borrowed from the Swiss. Now he plans to repeat the performance in Thursday's four-man event, leaving the British Olympic Association with an acute dilemma. For, under their rules, all proven drugs cheats automatically receive lifetime bans from Olympic selection. There have been several successful appeals in recent years, but the BOA insist that such bans are only rescinded if the offence is considered relatively minor or there are "mitigating circumstances". The newly-married Tout, who has kept body and soul together by working as a salesman in financial markets here and overseas, and stayed in trim with regular running and gym sessions, is planning an appeal. "I admit I made a stupid mistake which I shall always regret, but I held my hands up and I want to put all that behind me now," he told me. "Everyone in the sport has been tremendous in welcoming me back, but I know I have to take things one step at a time." Whether this cuts any ice with the BOA remains to be seen, though. I believe it should. Unlike others we could mention, Tout admitted his guilt, and took his lumps without squealing or running to m'learned friends or the newspapers. Nor did he claim his spaghetti was spiked. He has done his time, admitted his shame, and it's time for the old soldier to be brought in from the cold.

Major appointment for football

With "Junket'' Jack Cunningham red-carded even before he had kicked off in his proposed new role as chairman of the Independent Football Commission (see News Section, page 11), the Government find themselves in the same head-hunting mode as the equally wrong-footed Football Association, seeking someone of integrity and tactical astuteness for a position of leadership. The revolt by the nominated panel members against Tony Blair's former "enforcer" has caused them to go back to square one and advertise for someone to take charge of the supposed watchdog body designed to put the bite on the game's excesses. Such men are hard to find, especially as they have to be acceptable to the FA and the Premier League as well as Whitehall and Westminster. The former sports minister and World Cup bid ambassador Tony Banks is one name that would carry clout (though Kate Hoey might have something to say about that). Trevor Brooking would be Downing Street's preferred choice, but his chairmanship of Sport England and multi-media commitments surely rule him out, even though the job requires a workload of just four days a month and carries a salary of £15,000 per annum plus expenses. But might it be a sideline that would suit the former prime minister, John Major, a renowned sports lover who is the president of Surrey CCC and a Chelsea supporter? Interested parties should send their CVs to the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith. Junket Jack need not reapply.

Will Sydney stay on track?

Preparations for the 2004 Olympics, due to be held in Athens, are said to be close to breaking point, so it is hardly surprising that both the International Olympic Committee and the International Amateur Athletics Federation are covertly putting pressure on Sydney not to dismantle the athletics track which surrounds Stadium Australia once the Paralympics are over. The plan was always to convert the Olympic arena to accommodate both codes of rugby, but with concerns about the viability of Athens now described as "very, very serious" by the IOC's Dick Pound, one of the favourites to succeed President Juan Antonio Samaranch next year, Sydney has been placed on red alert. Significantly, the politician chiefly responsible for the organisation of the Sydney Games, Michael Knight, has quit his ministerial role and has been appointed to the co-ordination panel for Athens. If things don't work out there, he is handily placed to reactivate Sydney, but the athletics track needs to be kept in place. The Gay Games are scheduled as Sydney's next major sports event, in 2002. Organiser Garrie Gibson says he is hoping that some of those who took part in the Olympics will return as competitors in the Gay Games. "I can assure you that there were upwards of 1,000 lesbian and gay sportsmen and women participating in the Olympics, some of them medallists," he said. Maybe. But how many of them will come out and play in 2002?

Frankly, it ain't quite the same

When we encountered Muhammad Ali not so long ago he bent low and whispered: "It ain't the same any more, is it?" "No, champ," we replied. "It ain't." Frank McGhee would have echoed the sentiments. He was a star of sportswriting in an age when it was fun to gad about the world reporting on the antics of Ali and other sporting giants of his generation who made their achievements our enjoyment. McGhee certainly enjoyed himself, and what he did, with wit, clarity and style for the Daily Mirror. Although a southerner, he was weaned journalistically in the north on his beloved Manchester United in the days when they put pleasure before profit. McGhee retired some years ago when he realised it wasn't the same any more, and died peacefully in his sleep last week, at 70. The funeral service will be at St Mary's Parish Church, Weston Turville, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, at 12 noon on Wednesday.

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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