Torrence makes late exit as Nigeria's presence disrupts calm

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Gwen Torrence, the world 100 metres champion, has withdrawn from the World Championships, starting tomorrow in Athens, without offering an explanation, a United States team official said yesterday.

Torrence, 32, was granted a wild card by the International Amateur Athletic Federation to defend the title she won two years ago in Gothenburg, after knee and leg injuries kept her out of the US trials.

However, Ashland Whitfield, the US Track and Field's national team co- ordinator, said yesterday: "I got a phone call from one of her agents last night to say that Gwen had withdrawn from the championships. She did not give a specific reason and I did not ask." Earlier this month Torrence pulled out of the Nice Grand Prix on the eve of the meeting, again without giving an explanation.

A European Union ban on sporting contacts with Nigeria in protest of its human rights record has failed to keep the African nation from attending the Championships.

"The [EU] restrictions are absolutely not affecting track and field," Giorgio Reineri, a spokesman for the IAAF, said. He added the biennial event will start with a record 200 nations and without a single outcast.

Human rights activists criticised the failure to apply sporting sanctions. "It is absolutely appalling to have World Championships in an EU country in contradiction with the EU common position," Lotte Leicht, the European Director of Human Rights Watch, said.

The 15 EU nations, including Greece, imposed sanctions on Nigeria on 4 December 1995 after the military regime of General Sani Abacha executed nine opponents, including the author and human rights activist, Ken Saro- Wiwa.

The sanctions included a ban on Nigerian sports teams competing at events in EU countries.