Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Star UK athlete faces drug probe

HERE WE GO AGAIN Britain's 400m star Christine Ohuruogu has become the latest athlete to be linked to allegations of drug use after missing three doping tests


Britain's Christine Ohuruogu wins the gold medal in the final of the Women's 400m at the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, on March 21.


The athlete tipped to be Britain's golden girl at the London 2012 Games had gone to ground on Monday night, fearing her Olympic dream was in tatters after it was revealed she has missed three drug tests.

Last night, in a gloomy assessment, David Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics said: "The IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] and the rest of the world will be watching this case. An athlete is responsible for what they take, and their availability for out-of-competition testing is part of being a professional athlete. It goes with the territory and it's a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously."

The news is a devastating blow for Christine Ohuruogu, whose destiny seemed mapped out from the moment last year that London was awarded the Olympics. The hugely talented athlete was tipped to be the face of the Games, a positive symbol of multicultural Britain.

But the 22-year-old east Londoner may now be banned from appearing in the Games. Instead of lining up in this week's European Championships, she is at home in Stratford, preparing her defense against a charge of missing three drug tests, an offence that carries a two-year ban from the sport and, under a British Olympic Association bylaw, a lifetime Olympic ban.

The athlete, who has recently joined former Olympic gold medallist Linford Christie's Nuff Respect training stable, has apologized in a public statement. But for a sport reeling from high-profile drugs controversies, sympathy may be at a premium.

Born into a large British-African family and raised in Stratford, a short jog from the site of the Olympic stadium, Ohuruogu was being billed as the potential darling of London's Games. She underlined her credentials in March when she finished ahead of reigning Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling to win the 400m at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, following a path taken by Australia's Cathy Freeman six years before, at the Sydney Olympics.

Ohuruogu is also bright and articulate. It seemed by incredibly good fortune that Sebastian Coe and his officials discovered someone on their doorstep who could fill the kind of role Freeman did when she became a symbol of Australian-Aboriginal reconciliation and lit the flame at Sydney before winning a 400m gold.

Last night those hopes were at grave risk, and Ohuruogu was facing a fight just to be allowed to compete in 2012. She has been provisionally suspended by UK Athletics and told not to go to the European Championships, which opened in Gothenburg yesterday, where she was due to run in the 400m and 4x400m relay.

The British Olympic Association is one of only three national bodies that have the capacity to impose such selection bans. Ohuruogu is facing a similar charge to that which led to Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand being banned for eight months in 2004 and Greek sprinters Kostas Kederis and Ekaterina Thanou being kicked out of the Athens Olympics. Sally Gunnell was also nearly banned for a missed test in 1992 but was let off, and went on to win the 400m hurdles at Barcelona.

Since then, things have been tightened up. Under new rules, athletes have to make themselves available for random drug testing for one hour on five out of seven days by being at a specified location. On three occasions between October last year and the last week of July, officers from UK Sport, which conducts testing, turned up to test Ohuruogu at the address she had provided. Each time she failed to turn up.

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