Life ban for top British bobsleigher

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The Independent Online
Mark Tout, Britain's best bobsleigher over the past 10 years, was banned for life yesterday after failing a random drugs test.

The 35-year-old former Army sergeant, a member of the British team at the last Winter Olympics, admitted the offence after testing positive for an anabolic steroid last month.

"I completely regret doing it," he said yesterday. "You see the stories. I've seen what it's done to other people and people's careers. I wouldn't want anybody to feel how I feel at the moment But at the same time I'm not blind, I see what goes on in the world and I see what goes on in sport in general. You take your own position on that."

Tout helped British bobsleighers enjoy their best Winter Olympics for 30 years in Lillehammer in 1994. He was sixth with Lennox Paul in the two-man event and a member of the four-man team which finished fifth. He also advised Prince Albert of Monaco, who was competing at his third Olympics.

Speaking on Radio Five Live yesterday, Tout said he had been tempted to try steroids after suffering with back and leg injuries for an extended period.

"I was getting treatment for my injuries with no success. I was speaking to various people and taking some advice that maybe taking drugs would help my problem. That was one reason why I tried it.

"And in terms of the injury it has certainly helped. When you are training hard and the injury keeps breaking down it speeds up the healing in the period afterwards."

He said that the pressure of trying to win a gold medal had played its part in his decision. "I don't think I wanted to admit that ... but I am under certain pressure and maybe that's why I did it. It's difficult to appreciate it I think."

Tout said he felt he wouldn't be caught - "otherwise I wouldn't have done it" - but confirmed that he would not be appealing against the ban.

"I feel like I've failed," he said. "I've come a long way in the sport. When I first started it 15 years ago in this country we were a name and we just took part. Now the sport has a profile and we have won medals over recent years and I have worked very hard to achieve that. I feel I have spoilt that by making a silly mistake. I have come so close and I know I won't get the chance to complete the picture."

As to what the future held, he added: "I have to pick up again and concentrate on survival. All my funding's cut, all my support is cut immediately this came out. I have to deal with it. It's very, very difficult. But I'll have to get on with life and I have to find some employment."

Nicky Phipps, Tout's former British team-mate, said the news had come as a great shock, adding: "I've known Mark for a long, long time and we were team-mates for many years.

"Within our sport we know it has gone on over the years through the other countries and I suppose we never expected it to happen to us really."

Henrietta Alderman, secretary of the British Bobsleigh Association, confirmed that it was the first such case in British bobsleighing, although there have been other drug cases internationally.

She added that Sean Olsson, the second-choice driver for Britain in the last Winter Olympics, would have pushed him hard for the top spot at the next Olympic trials for the Nagano Games of 1998.

"Mark has been a dominant figure. But we have a lot of talented and hungry bobsleighers coming through now," she said.

The BBA issued a statement, saying: "The life ban was imposed by the disciplinary committee of the British Bobsleigh Association and subsequently ratified by the sport's governing board."