INSIDE LINES: ALAN HUBBARD COLUMN

Athletes hooked

on mind games

No need for athletes to get laced into the Nandrolone, or even ginseng, Phyllosan, Sanatogen or whatever powders or potions those of a certain age may feel inject that little something into their performances. According to Roger Black, Linford Christie's erstwhile running mate and current BBC colleague, all he needs is a stiff dose of a substance called NLP. But don't worry, it's strictly legit and all in the mind rather than the body. NLP, otherwise known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is part of the initiative SportSuccess, to be launched in London tomorrow by the Olympic silver medallist Black and cohorts who include the hypnotist Paul McKenna. It may all sound like scary psycho-babble to you and me but Black assures us it worked for him in the twilight of his career and can do so for all who aspire to sporting greatness and require to eliminate the negatives (as well as, we assume, those who are now trying to eliminate the positives). Unlike the traditional brand of sports psychology SportSuccess relies heavily on NLP, which is described as a method of modifying not only how you think, but how you communicate and act in order to achieve the results you want. Black,who claims you can even use it to improve your golf, says it is a combination of sports science and mind-focusing techniques which produce that extra edge. "So many athletes leave it all to chance. When you get to the Olympic Games everyone is good and when you get to the finals everyone is better. When all is said and done it is the mental edge that makes the difference between winning and losing." The athletes Steve Backley and Mark Richardson, the ex-Wimbledon champion Pat Cash and former world middleweight champion boxer Nigel Benn all claim to have benefited. With more sinister products like HGH and EPO uppermost in the minds of many athletes these days, at least NLP seems harmless enough. As Black says: "It's legal and provides the sort of assistance that everyone has access to."

Athletes rally round Christie, pages 8-9

No shots in the dark

Those out on the golf course during Wednesday's eclipse of the sun are advised to down clubs, mark their ball and wait until daylight returns around 15 minutes later. These include the 100 competitors who will be playing in the final round of the Players' Tour at The Kendleshire in Gloucestershire, where the tournament director Jeremy Kilby has taken advice from the government's chief medical officer. He says: "We'll have to make competitors aware that if it becomes too dark, play will be suspended until we can see again." England's cricketers, currently being eclipsed by the Kiwis, must have wished the event could have been brought forward to yesterday. At least they could appealed against the light.

Still potty over Motty

Amid the weeping and gnashing of teeth in the BBC's bunker over the dear, departed Des comes the hint of a fight-back. Alarmed that Brian Barwick, the big, bluff Liverpudlian who masterminded the Snatch of the Day may be targeting another of his old boys, John Motson, for the ITV team, the Beeb's incoming director general Greg Dyke has decreed that there must be no more defections, at almost any price. Barwick, a former BBC sports chief, is known to be as potty over Motty as he was delirious about Des, and Motson, who has already rejected a bid from Sky, shares Lynam's disenchantment with the way football is going down the tubes at White City and was considering his future. But the promise of a wider brief and an improved contract is likely to keep him out of Barwick's bear-hug. Dyke has made it known he thinks it is time the sports department got their act together and as a bit of a face-saver the BBC are now likely to put in a substantial bid to cover Manchester United's exploits in the world club championship, an event which so far hasn't elicited much interest from either ITV or Sky. ITV seem content with their Champions' League coup, one of the football showpieces for which Lynam has been so expensively poached and this week they will confirm that they plan to split coverage between ITV 1 and ONdigital, one showing the action live, the other highlights, reversing the schedule for the next match. A game of two halves, in fact, but which half will Bob Wilson get now that Des is in res?

Andrew Longmore, page 7

Touche, Taylor

They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold, and Gary Lineker has waited seven years to devour his. Yesterday he did so, with a little relish. Interviewing Watford's Graham Taylor during the BBC's Football Focus he slyly interrupted his former England manager thus: "Sorry Graham, there's only 20 minutes left so I'll have to take you off." Taylor did not appear to get the joke. But then, Lineker wasn't laughing,either, when he was hauled off in Sweden, never to darken England's dressing room again.

Football's killing fields

Shearer was sent off and Heskey was sent to hospital, but compared to events in Cairo, the football season got off to a relatively drama-free start here. Things were more turbulent in Egypt, where two players were stabbed to death. The first fatality happened when a referee responded to a player who argued with him over a disputed goal scored by the opposing team by pulling out a knife rather than a red card and repeatedly stabbing him. In the second incident, also in Cairo, a passer-by hit by a wild shot ran on to the pitch, argued with the player responsible and knifed him in the chest.

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