Olympic Games: Weightlifting: Suspensions of Saxton and Davies confirmed

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The Independent Online
THE TWO British weightlifters sent home from the Olympics for failing drug tests will not be returning to Barcelona. The British Olympic Association confirmed yesterday that the suspension of Andrew Saxton and Andrew Davies will stand, while denying there had been a confusion of gold-medal proportions.

The two weightlifters, both 25, were tested on 10 and 11 June when traces of Clenbuterol, which is both an anabolic steroid and a stimulant, were found. Neither denied taking the drug but both claimed they had used it to cure asthmatic problems. At the same time, the athlete Jason Livingston was also suspended after traces of another drug, Methandienone, were discovered.

The respective sports bodies were informed on Tuesday, and Livingston, Saxton and Davies sent home the following day. Livingston has not appealed officially since but the weightlifters' move to contest the decision has brought with it 48 hours of rumour and mix-up.

Saxton and Davies' appeal revolved around whether the drug, which is not licensed in Britain, is prohibited out of as well as in competition. Had it been only a stimulant, International Olympic Committee rules would have permitted its use in training.

The IOC Medical Commission confirmed yesterday, however, that Clenbuterol was a banned substance on the grounds that it 'promotes muscle growth and alters body composition'. It was classified as a Class C drug, an androgenic anabolic steroid.

Michele Verdier, spokeswoman for the lOC, said yesterday: 'I can confirm Clenbuterol is a substance on the list of prohibited substances of the IOC. That's absolutely sure, absolutely confirmed. It is for the (IOC) medical commission a prohibited product.'

Caroline Searle of the BOA said: 'Questions raised by the sport of weightlifting both at British and international level on behalf of the competitors concerned centred on the status of the drug . . . The IOC medical commission statement clarifies that status. It is to be regretted that news of the investigations were yesterday (Friday) leaked to the press. This has caused added anguish to the families of the competitors at an already difficult time.'

Questions were being asked yesterday as to why the Sports Council had described Clenbuterol as an anabolic agent and not a steroid, which had necessitated clarification, and why the BOA had not sought this information before ordering the weightlifters home.

Dick Palmer, the BOA General Secretary, described the issue of banned drugs as a 'very grey area'. He continued: 'As soon as the British Amateur Weightlifting Association received the letter from the Sports Council confirming that Davies and Saxton had failed drug tests their rules dictated that they had to immediately suspend them. Our actions since have been merely to protect the weightlifters' interests.

'I don't think there has been any Sports Council and BOA embarrassment at all. I think it proves we have an effective out-of-competition testing programme and that programme is carried through rigorously and ruthlessly. There is no fudging at the edges.'

Robert Watson, the BOA drug officer, added: 'It shows our determination to do everything properly in trying to eradicate drug abuse. At the same time it shows the BOA's intent to protect the legitimate rights of individuals to the full.'

Saxton, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist two years ago, and Davies, who was Britain's leading weightlifting medal hope, had been due to compete tonight and tomorrow respectively. Under weightlifting rules they have the right to appeal within 14 days.

The British affair was not the only incident to sully the sport. There was the sorry spectacle of a lifter refusing his bronze at a medal ceremony the night before last. The light-heavyweight Ibragim Samadov signified that all was not well with the Unified Team when stepping down from the rostrum and leaving the medal behind.

Politics, unfortunately, marred a sporting occasion. In a 500- strong UT squad, only Altymurat Orazdurdyev comes from Turkmenistan, the Moslem Central Asian state, and he had hoped to do his countrymen proud.

The trouble was that the favourite for the event never got the chance after being pulled out of the final by the UT's trainer, Vasily Alexeyev, just before the start in order not to 'get in the way' of Samadov, who has since been banned for life and stripped of his medal.