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Richard laments 'too heavy a burden' during Games

Sanya Richards, whose attempt to justify her standing as favourite in the 400 metres starts on Saturdy, said that she felt her British rival Christine Ohuruogu was 'fortunate' to be at these Games having won an appeal against the British Olympic Association's byelaw.

Ohuruogu, who won the world title last summer after serving a year's suspension for failing three times to be in the appointed place when drug testers arrived for random tests, was only able to compete in Beijing by virtue of the BOA adjudging that extenuating circumstances allowed the lifting of their ruling which bans doping offenders from all future Games.

"I think Christine was fortunate to be here," Richards said, "but her case was different because she did not have a positive test. It was unique. To me she seems clean and eager to compete."

Richards, who failed to qualify for her best distance at the world championships after failing to qualify in the US trials, added that she felt the burden of responsibility to combat doping sometimes fell too heavily on athletes.

"The burden of trying to change our sport is too heavy to be carried during the Olympics," she said. "I just think it's a huge injustice to the athletes who worked so hard. I don't want to hear about drugs. I don't want to hear about cheaters."

Richards is clearly not shy of the limelight - she recently got engaged to New York Giants player Aaron Ross on national television - but although she has run almost a second faster than the British woman this season, she is under pressure to deliver what would be a first significant title. And the presence of her entire family, all 21 of them, in Beijing will hardly diminish that.

She admitted that she thought Ohuruogu, and Britain's world silver medallist Nicola Sanders, were her biggest competition, adding: "I just hope I'll be tougher on that day."

Meanwhile Kelly Sotherton, whose attempt to add a further heptathlon medal to the bronze she won in Athens four years ago got underway in the early hours of this morning, has provided scientific evidence which indicates she is going to win.

The 31-year-old recently underwent a polygraph test conducted by Doctor Hilary Witchel, a leading psycho-physiologist from England's Bristol University. After a series of control questions, Sotherton was asked if she would win the Olympic title and her physiological responses indicated that her answer "Yes, I will win gold in Beijing" was genuine.

Genuine or not, the presence in competition of Hyleas Fountain of the United States and Russia's Tatyana Chernova will make that resolve tough to see through. But if Sotherton can produce another long jump of the kind which saw her set a personal best of 6.79m last month and turn reported javelin throws of 40m in training into competition throws, she should be in with a shout.