Walker's Olympic suspension 'unjust'

Dougie Walker's hopes of taking part in the Sydney Olympics have been dashed by an "unjust" suspension from all athletics competitions imposed despite his exoneration a year ago of an alleged dope-taking offence, the High Court heard yesterday.

Dougie Walker's hopes of taking part in the Sydney Olympics have been dashed by an "unjust" suspension from all athletics competitions imposed despite his exoneration a year ago of an alleged dope-taking offence, the High Court heard yesterday.

Walker, 26, the current European 200 metres champion, was at London's Law Courts to hear his barrister, Andrew Hunter, tell Mrs Justice Hallett: "Mr Walker, like a number of athletes these days, makes his living out of athletics. It is his career. He should be at the peak of that career. He should be attending the Sydney Olympics at the height of his career. Instead, due to a combination of factors, as matters stand he will not be able to do that."

Mr Hunter told the judge that in December 1998 UK Athletics (UKA), the sport's national governing body, commenced disciplinary proceedings against Walker for an alleged doping offence. On 28 July last year a UKA disciplinary committee "unanimously exonerated Mr Walker of any offence".

"Notwithstanding this, almost a full year later he remains suspended from all athletics competitions," Mr Hunter said. "As matters stand he will miss the UK Olympics trials starting on 13 August and will be unable to compete in the Sydney Olympics in September."

Mr Hunter said the reason for Mr Walker's predicament was that in October last year, three months after his exoneration, the International Amateur Athletics Federation intervened in his case. He said the IAAF commenced an arbitration against UKA "but in which the only relief sought was a declaration that Mr Walker is ineligible to complete in athletics competitions". He added that the intervention was "highly unjust" to Walker.

He told the judge that Mr Walker no longer wanted to seek an injunction restraining the IAAF arbitration altogether: "His primary concern is to ensure that in the meantime he has a chance to compete in the Olympic trials."

His claim is for a declaration that pending the final determination of the IAAF arbitration he is eligible to compete under UKA and IAAF rules in athletics competitions.

* Mark Richardson hopes to hear today that he has been cleared by the UK Athletics Drugs Advisory Committee which recently met to hear evidence concerning his over-the-limit nandrolone case.

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