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Athletics chief wants longer bans

19 February 2008

UK Athletics boss Niels de Vos wants tougher bans for drugs cheats in the wake of Dwain Chambers' controversial return to top-flight competition.

"The reason there has been this outrage is that the sport recognises that a two-year ban was a significant own goal," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"There is a hardening of attitudes across athletics. It is not about him."

"Two years is no worse than a serious cruciate ligament injury. Whether a four-year ban is enough is debatable."

De Vos is unhappy with the mandatory two-year suspension enforced by UKA under mandatory World Anti-Doping Agency policy.

Chambers was banned for two years after testing positive for tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) in 2003 but booked his place in Great Britain's squad for the World Indoor Championships next month with a convincing 60m victory at the trials.

UKA reluctantly included the 29-year-old in the squad, fearing an expensive legal case if he had been omitted.

And Paralympian great Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, who is heading a UKA anti-doping review group in the wake of Chambers' selection, wants eight-year bans for drugs cheats - but only if the move is legally watertight.

"I have a hard-line view of anti-doping, I think it should be an eight-year ban," she said.

"But it can't be what my view of it is because it has got to stand up in a legal framework."

Grey Thompson will spend the next two weeks in discussions with lawyers to discover what sanctions British athletics' governing body can legally impose on drugs cheats to avoid situations like the Chambers saga in the future.

"There is no point in spending the next six or seven months coming up with recommendations that can't stand up in court," she said.

"As a sport, athletics has to decide what it wants its destiny to be because it's not fair to the sport and not fair to the athletes what we've just been through.

"Will Dwain compete, won't he? Can he, can't he qualify? It's just stupid at the moment."

Grey Thompson also revealed she would like to involve Chambers in her review process to uncover his underlying motives for cheating.

"I'm not sure about him joining the panel but I'd be very interested in talking to him if he was willing to understand why he did it because, for me, it's so far removed from anything that I'd ever contemplate in sports," she said.

"I need to understand why an athlete would make that 'choice'. You can sit and talk about all that random stuff - money, fame, glory, all those things - but actually really understand why he took the decisions he took.

"I think it is important in terms of informing us. I think we need that type of knowledge for athlete education."

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