Modahl decision 'odd'

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The Independent Online

Diane Modahl, whose four-year ban for drug abuse was overturned on appeal on Wednesday night, is not yet in the clear, judging by the reaction of the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Istvan Gyulai, general secretary of the IAAF, reacted with suspicion yesterday to the ruling of the British Athletic Federation appeal panel that the urine samples Modahl produced at a meeting in Lisbon in June 1994 may have given a false positive reading for testosterone through being stored inadequately. "We believe the whole decision is rather odd and there will be further stages to come," Gyulai said. "We are not chasing any individual. Our responsibility is to make sure the sport is clean.

"If if is proved to us that what we are doing is wrong, then we are not stupid and stubborn people and we will change it. However, we believe that these testing procedures are watertight. They have been tested many times."

Referring specifically to the research which was presented on Modahl's behalf at late notice to the panel, which showed that faulty storage could increase testosterone levels in urine samples, Gyulai added: "We would like the opportunity to respond to the new evidence put forward to check whether it is good science or only a remote possibility."

As the scientist responsible for preparing the evidence, Professor Simon Gaskell from the University of Manchester's Institute of Science and Technology, was in no doubt about his response yesterday. "I would argue that it was good science," he said. "In fact, I would go further and say that the conditions in which this research was carried out were more stringent than those which applied within the Lisbon laboratory."

The IAAF council meets next week in Gothenburg before the World Championships and the case seems certain to be referred to an arbitration tribunal. The timing is not certain, as the IAAF medical commission must first review the appeal evidence before deciding whether to recommend arbitration to the full council. The next commission meeting is not until October, although an extraordinary meeting could be held before then.

The IAAF arbitration panel consists of three people chosen from an elected group of six IAAF members. The four- yearly election for candidates falls this year, however, so none of the six currently in place would be involved in any judgement regarding Modahl.

In the meantime, the 29-year-old former Commonwealth 800 metres champion is technically able to compete again. After having her baby in October, she could begin preparing to win a place in Britain's team for next year's Olympics in Atlanta. Alternatively, she may concentrate her energies on a lengthy and costly court action in London or Monte Carlo.

Court fight, page 22