Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Ohuruogu has ban overturned

AGENCIES , LONDON

Christine Ohuruogu celebrates after the women's 400m final at the 11th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, on Aug. 29. PHOTO: AFP

World and Commonwealth 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu has been cleared to run for Britain at the Beijing Olympics after winning an independent appeal against a British Olympic Association (BOA) ban.

Ohuruogu returned this year after serving a one-year ban for missing three out-of-competition doping tests. Under a BOA eligibility by-law she was automatically barred from competing in future Olympics for Britain.

On Monday, Ohuruogu went before an independent appeals panel who decided there were "significant mitigating circumstances" surrounding her missed tests.

"The appeals panel unanimously agreed that the written evidence supplemented by the answers given by both parties at the oral hearing provided the necessary information to take an early decision in Christine Ohuruogu's appeal," a BOA statement said yesterday. "It was agreed that any delay in making the decision would not be in the interests of any of the involved parties."

Ohuruogu is the latest athlete to successfully appeal against the BOA rule. Former world triathlon champion Tim Don and judo athlete Peter Cousins, who both served three-month suspensions for missing drug tests, are among those who have overturned lifetime Olympic bans.

"I'm so pleased for her," Ohuruogu's coach Lloyd Cowan said. "We now just have to move on and get this cloud over our head out of the way ... I will be doing everything possible to assist her to win an Olympic medal next summer."

Ohuruogu, who won gold at the world championships in Osaka this year, was supported by national governing body UK Athletics throughout her appeal and was also backed by fellow athletes, including world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe.

BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said Ohuruogu would be welcomed back to the fold but stressed that athletes must be responsible for making sure they were available for out-of-competition tests.

"The BOA and the panel both stress that no-advance-notice, out-of-competition testing is a fundamental part of ensuring an effective fight against doping in sport," he said.

Details of the panel's reasoning will be made available before the end of the year.

"It is our intention to comment more fully on the circumstances relating to this case and any wider issues once we have received the full judgement," Clegg added.

Ohuruogu lost an appeal against her one-year ban by UK Athletics at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April although it heard there was no suggestion she had taken drugs.

The 23-year-old, who has been tipped as the face of the London 2012 Games because she lives close to the site in east London, said she had missed the tests because of changes to her training schedule.

UK Sport, the government agency responsible for sport and anti-doping measures in Britain, said the BOA needed to examine its by-laws, particularly the automatic Olympic ban for any kind of doping offence.

"We would argue that a more sensible approach would be to impose such a ban only in the case of a `serious' offence -- namely one that carries at least a two-year period of ineligibility under the Code," a UK Sport statement said.

UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner said he was delighted that Ohuruogu is free to compete under the British flag.

"There has never been any suggestion that Christine took performance enhancing substances and more than a dozen negative tests over the last two years supports this and should reassure the public that she is a drug-free athlete," he said in a statement.

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