Modahl ruling casts doubt on drug tests

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Diane Modahl yesterday became the first British athlete to win an appeal against a ban for drug abuse. The appeal panel of the British Athletic Federation concluded yesterday afternoon, after nearly 24 hours of deliberation, that the former Commonwealth 800 metres champion was not guilty of taking testosterone, excessive levels of which had resulted in her receiving a four-year suspension.

However, she faces a challenge from the International Amateur Athletic Federation, who are likely to refer the case to their own arbitration panel, which has reversed successful appeals from athletes such as Butch Reynolds and Katrin Krabbe. Reynolds' case hinged on the assignation of a sample, and that of Krabbe over confusion as to whether clenbuterol was on the banned list at the time it was taken by her. Modahl's case cuts straight into the heart of the testing procedure.

Tony Ward, the spokesman for the BAF, said: "We are delighted at the outcome because Diane is a great champion and because it proves our appeals procedure is obviously working."

The appeal panel concluded: "On the evidence before us, there is a possibility, which cannot be ignored, that the cause of the T/E [testosterone/epitestosterone] ratio in the sample of her urine was not that testosterone had been administered but that the samples had become degraded owing to their being stored in unrefrigerated conditions, and that bacteriological action had resulted in an increase in the amount of testosterone in the samples."

In a statement, Modahl said: "We were told that the samples had been left unrefrigerated in a room near to the stadium for at least 40 hours after they had been taken."

The panel criticised the Portuguese authorities over the chain of custody documen-tation, saying that the Lisbon laboratory personnel were "less than frank" at the time of the testing of the B sample, when they indicated documentation existed but was not available. But the panel concluded that although there were deficiencies in the chain of custody procedures, "they did not cast any real doubt on the findings".

The testosterone level found in Modahl's sample - measured in ratio to epitestosterone - was 42:1, nearly four times the level in Ben Johnson's sample which led to his life ban.

Last December a BAF hearing concluded unanimously that the athlete who was sent home in disgrace from the 1994 Commonwealth Games had committed a doping offence "beyond reasonable doubt". Yesterday's decision called into question not only that conclusion, but the competence of the whole IAAF drug-testing system.

An IAAF spokesman said on Monday that the body had 100 per cent confidence in their testing procedure. Clearly, Modahl does not share that confidence. "The appeal panel have shown that there is a degree of fairness within the system," she said. "At the same time, the system should try to weed out the guilty but perhaps most importantly protect the innocent."

The IAAF said it had been informed that new evidence was produced but said it was "baffled as to why this new evidence was not offered to the BAF to allow the federation to make a thorough investigation and provide a satisfactory response".

Modahl denied that there had been any new evidence brought forward in the appeal. "The evidence was not new," she said. "It related to the fact that the sample had been very deteriorated, in the Portuguese laboratory, with a pH level rising from five to nearly nine. That explanation was not believed last time. This time around the panel accepted that this was a fact."

The panel was chaired by Robert Reid, QC, who presided over the recent hearings concerning the financial affairs of the former Arsenal manager, George Graham.

Modahl was originally tested after a race in Lisbon on 18 June last year, but was only told on 24 August that she had tested positive. "The BAF immediately sent me back to England and on arrival I was greeted as an athlete who had cheated and disgraced her family, her friends, her sport and her country."

In the hearing last December, it was accepted by the BAF medical experts that Modahl's urine sample had deteriorated in the time between the initial test and the confirmatory B sample test. However, the experts - Prof Arnold Beckett and Dr David Cowan, director of the Sport's Council's drug control centre, concluded that: "The analytical results on the B sample were comparable to those from the analysis of the A sample."


18.6.94 Gave sample after competing in Lisbon

7.7.94 'A' Test commenced

9.7.94 Moscow newspaper states that British female athlete tested positive for drugs

18.7.94 'A' test finished

24.8.94 'A' test result announced to International Amateur Athletic Federation, British Athletic Federation and then Diane Modahl. BAF sends Modahl back from Commonwealth Games in Canada before she defends 800m title

27.8.94 Modahl calls for full BAF hearing if 'B' test confirms 'A' test

28.8.94 Modahl asks for access to the remainder of her samples

30.8.94 'B' test carried out in Lisbon

31.8.94 IAAF announce: 'As far as we are concerned, she is guilty.' And 'the IAAF has followed its procedures and its findings are indisputable'

1.9.94 IAAF announce: 'We are losing patience with her... We have made the tests and there have been no mistakes.'

6.9.94 BAF suspends Modahl pending hearing

23.9.94 IAAF's solicitors, Herbert Smith and Co, reject Modahl's request for access to her sample

27.9.94 Modahl asks to have her samples retested at another International Olympic Committee laboratory

13.12.94 BAF disciplinary hearing

14.12.94 BAF finds Modahl guilty of doping offence and bans her for four years as from 18 June 1994

15.12.94 Modahl gives notice of appeal to BAF

3.1.95 Modahl asks for a further test at IOC laboratory in London according to a testing procedure to be agreed in advance by experts for both Diane Modahl and BAF

12.1.95 BAF request IAAF to consider further limited tests

17.3.95 BAF report to Modahl that IAAF have decided to conduct further tests at Lisbon laboratory

6.6.95 IAAF announce that further test must take place in Portugal on 22.6.95

20.6.95 IAAF abandon further test on remainder of Modahl's samples due to take place on 22 June, citing lack of co-operation from Lisbon

24-25.7.95 Appeal before independent appeal panel of BAF

26.7.95 BAF uphold Modahl's appeal