Moorcroft fears zero Athens medals haul

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The Independent Online

David Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, has warned that Britain could return from from the Athens Olympics without a single medal - but insists that the Games are set to be the cleanest ever after a relentless crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs.

David Moorcroft, the chief executive of UK Athletics, has warned that Britain could return from from the Athens Olympics without a single medal - but insists that the Games are set to be the cleanest ever after a relentless crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs.

Moorcroft admits Lottery funding could be under threat if the worst-case scenario of a zero medal haul is realised but insists the team is one in transition, with a high number of athletes at the start and end of their careers.

The former 5,000 metres world record holder told Radio Five Live: "It could be anything from nought to six or seven but if we get four it will be pretty good.

"But you have to take into consideration the ages of the team which is one in transition. Some are younger and some are older but there is a huge wealth of talent." Britain came away from the Sydney Games with two gold, two silver and two bronze medals - a haul which the team are highly unlikely to replicate.

However, of those medallists, Jonathan Edwards has retired and fellow gold medallist Denise Lewis is struggling with a foot injury sustained before the 2000 Olympics and exacerbated at the Olympic trials a fortnight ago.

Lewis told the crowd at Sunday's Norwich Union International in Birmingham that she was making a "miracle recovery" and would be competing in the long jump at Crystal Palace on Friday.

The javelin thrower Steve Backley, who has won Olympic bronze and two Olympic silvers over the past 12 years, has announced his intention of retiring after the Athens Games, and the 400 metres bronze medallist at Sydney, Katharine Merry, is on the sidelines with injury.

Only Darren Campbell and Kelly Holmes remain of the Sydney medallists, and they are two of the senior members of the team on which Britain's hopes and expectations fall.

Moorcroft accepted the axe could fall on him, saying: "Maybe the regime should change. Maybe some personnel change will happen. I think I should be as vulnerable as the athletes to selection." On a more positive note, Moorcroft believes the Games, rather than suffering from the ongoing drugs scandals involving the Americans, will benefit from the increased rigour of current drug-testing operations.

"I believe the sport is cleaner now than for many years," he said. "We are more likely to catch people who cheat. There will always be people who cheat - not just athletes - and some will be smiling knowing they have cheated the system. But they have to look at themselves in the mirror and know they have cheated.

"I think there will be less cheats in Athens than ever. And I am immensely proud of the integrity of the British athletes." Kelly Holmes, a runaway winner of the 800 metres in Birmingham on Sunday, has said she will consider switching to the distance over which she has won Olympic bronze and world silver if she thinks it will give her a better chance of a medal in Athens than the 1500 metres.

"I desperately want a medal and if by the time I get to the championships the 800m is going to be my best option then that is what I will do," she said.

She added: "Maybe if I start training for the 800 it will be detrimental so I keep doing what I am doing - so if I go for it I will have the best of both worlds. I know something inside me will click and go 'you have to go for it' but as of yet is hasn't happened."

* After years of delays and financial obstacles, the original Athens Olympic marathon route has been reconstructed for use in this year's Games four days before the expiry of an International Olympic deadline. The IOC had warned earlier that the road had to be ready by the end of July to allow for testing and landscaping work ahead of the start of the Games.

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