Modahl request rejected

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ATHLETICS Diane Modahl's request that her appeal against a four-year drugs ban be heard in public has been turned down. The British Athletic Federation spokesman, Tony Ward, said last night that the request would not be granted as it would turn the proceedings into "a stage show".

The former Commonwealth 800 metres champion was banned after being found guilty of taking a performance-enhancing drug by a British Athletic Federation disciplinary panel on 14 December.

"It is quite obvious that this case is of great public interest and of importance to the world of sport," her lawyer said yesterday. "Furthermore, the BAF rule book does not require meetings to be held in private.

"There was no evidence at the last hearing which could have been of benefit to anyone trying to break the anti-doping regulations and so no need to keep any of the evidence secret."

Ward said: "There will not be a public hearing. There is no precedent in sport, let alone in athletics, for a public drugs hearing. We feel it would be counter-productive to a fair hearing. It would turn into a stage show."

The BAF management board last night selected its panel of three to hear Modahl's appeal. their names will not be released until the invitations have been accepted, nor has a date been set for the appeal, due to discussions with Modahl's lawyers.

The management board was also expected to discuss the possible ramifications for the sport if Modahl's efforts to clear her name should prove ultimately unsuccessful, given that her husband and coach, Vicente, is manager to some of Britain's most talented athletes.

Two leading Portuguese runners whom Modahl managed - the European cross-country champion, Paolo Guerra, and Joao Junqueira - are reported to have found a new agent because they no longer felt comfortable working with Modahl. Others have stayed, despite pressure to leave from their own federation.

British athletes, including the high jumper, Steve Smith, and the British 400m record holder, David Grindley, have pledged their continuing support.