Wariso turns on the gas again

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The Independent Online
Having paid the price for being the first British athlete of the old year to be suspended for a drugs offence, Solomon Wariso quietly returned to competition at the New Year Games at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham yesterday. The price fo r what the authorities accepted had been a genuine mistake was a mere three months' suspension, but he accepts that the cost to the sport of being first on a damning list in 1994 was much greater.

Wariso had approached last summer's season full of determination to challenge Linford Christie's domination of the 100 metres. He ended it just before he should have run in the European Championships in Helsinki where it was announced that he had failed a drugs test. There had been small traces of ephedrine in his system.

Wariso realised that it must have been in the Chinese- manufactured pick-me-up called Up Your Gas he had been given by another athlete who said it would help overcome the exhaustion involved in competing in one of the sport's most arduous ever seasons. Wariso has never split on that other athlete.

He says that although his mates at Harringey were quick to support him, they were equally concerned for their sport. "It was mostly the general press that got it all out of proportion," he said. "The athletes mostly just made jokes, asking me if I'd paidthe gas bill, but I was worried that if someone like me who knows something about science can make a mistake, anyone can. There was nothing on the bottle to tell anyone that it contained any banned substance. When Peter Radford told me the test was positive I nearly died. I had to hold up my hands and say I was technically guilty but I was never a drug user.''

Now reinstated, he looks forward to a season with fewer peaks than he intended to climb last summer. The World Championships in Gothenburg are his principal target. He says the trauma of the past few months has not changed his resolve nor made him feel he needs to be ashamed about "being unlucky when everyone else takes one vitamin or another". He said: "I didn't feel nervous about competing again. I'd won last year in Birmingham so it seemed like a natural place to start again."

He appeared yesterday before a tiny crowd that afforded him no acknowledgement when he first appeared in an early heat of the 60m. He says that he may soon concentrate on events longer than the short sprints. But for the moment all he is concerned about is being accepted back and not having any stigma attached to his name. "I did think of retiring but I knew I had nothing to be ashamed of.'' Nevertheless he admits that had it not been for the support of the British team captain, Linford Christie, he might have given up the sport that he says badly needs to be able to distinguish between cheats and those who make "genuine mistakes".

Yesterday he immediately found that Michael Rosswess was ahead of him in early-season preparation. Rosswess set a time of 6.71sec in a semi-final, the fastest in the world indoors this year and one that he bettered to 6.67sec in a photo-finish final which saw Wariso take a close third (6.72) behind Josephus Thomas (6.71). Not that Wariso was looking for quick times, only for his first chance "to get back involved". What he wants to avoid is getting so committed for club and country that he gets run down. Would he be tempted to take another pick-me-up? "I'm not risking anything. If I did take something illegal even by mistake I would expect to be thrown out of the sport for good."

If Wariso performs well in today's 200m he could well be reinstated as a British international later this month when Britain face Russia indoors, also in Birmingham.

Having only developed as a top-class athlete over the past two years, Wariso, at 28, has little chance of achieving the heights attained by Christie and could decide later this year that the 400m is more suitable for someone at his stage.

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