Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 18 News List

US doping scandal depletes Golden League line-up

AFP , BERGEN, NORWAY AND CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

The 2004 Golden League circuit of six top-class meetings settled into its starting blocks yesterday with the sport of athletics rocked by the doping scandal in the US.

Even Kenenisa Bekele's 10,000m world record in Ostrava on Tuesday failed to lift the gloom which deepened when it was reported on Wednesday that 100m world record holder Tim Montgomery has been warned by American anti-doping authorities that he faces charges of doping violations.

Montgomery and Olympic relay medallist Chryste Gaines were reported to have received warning letters from the US Anti-Doping Agency, relating to the investigation into the California-based BALCO laboratory, which has been linked with the "designer" steroid THG.

Montgomery, who has vowed to fight any charges, was not among the starters yesterday in a meeting moved from its traditional home in Oslo due to rebuilding work on the historic Bislett Stadium.

Just six weeks before the Athens Olympics, many stars are still easing into their competitive season but any athlete hoping to emulate Maria Mutola and win the US$1 million jackpot must win their event at every meeting.

The men's 200m boasts an outstanding lineup including reigning world champion John Capel of the US and veteran Frankie Fredericks, a former world champion, along with rising US prospect Justin Gatlin, whose 2003 season was partly spoiled by injury.

Russia's mercurial Yuriy Borzakovskiy takes on surprise world champion Djabir Said Guerni of Algeria in the 800m with gold in Athens on both of their minds although Wilfred Bungei of Kenya has the year's fastest time and will line up too.

Bernard Lagat has a lot to prove in 2004 after clearing his name of doping allegations last year. The Kenyan tests his form in the 1,500m against Alan Webb, a young man emerging as a new middle distance find for the US.

Felix Sanchez has been invincible in the 400m hurdles for three years and he blew away a series of below-par early season performances with victory in Ostrava. The man from the Dominican Republic takes on the fastest man of 2004 so far, South Africa's Okkert Cilliers.

The big absentee from the women's 100m is Olympic champion Marion Jones and with Kelli White now banned for doping, the American given the world championships gold medal in her place, Torri Edwards, takes on the best Europe can offer.

Ethiopian-born Elvan Abeylegesse, now competing for Turkey, will make a possible world record attempt in the women's 5,000m.

Olympic flame

South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela will be among those carrying the Olympic torch when it arrives in South Africa for the first time, organizers said on Thursday.

Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo brings the flame here on a flight from Cairo today. It then travels by foot, cable car and helicopter on a journey that takes in the city's impoverished Cape Flats townships, iconic Table Mountain and Robben Island, where Mandela spent most of his 27 years in jail.

Runners along the 57km route represent a cross-section of South African society -- from sports celebrities to music legends, students to a 100-year-old man.

The torch's first trip to South Africa comes as the country celebrates its first decade of all-race democracy.

"Cape Town is going to display what all of South Africa wants to show, passion about the Olympic games, passion about sport, passion about the country," National Olympic Committee of South Africa president Sam Ramsamy was quoted as saying. "We are all looking forward to a great day."

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