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Paula Radcliffe critical of lifetime bans

10/13/2011

LONDON -- Marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe has changed her stance regarding Britain's lifetime Olympic bans for doping offenders, saying it unfairly penalizes compatriots such as sprinter Dwain Chambers.

Britain is the only country with such a strong sanction, but it is under threat since the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week overturned an IOC rule that bars any athlete who has received a doping suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Olympics.

While the verdict cleared the way for Olympic 400-meter champion LaShawn Merritt to defend his title next year in London, Chambers is still barred because of the national rules.

Radcliffe said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that such an isolated stance by the British Olympic Association unjustly singles out the country's athletes.

"I actually supported the rule that if you had a drugs ban you shouldn't be allowed to compete in the Olympics -- it should be a life ban," Radcliffe told the AP. "But at the moment it's unfair because Dwain is the only one who is really being penalized for it. ... It has to be a rule that's fair across the board ... it isn't fair to penalize Dwain."

Chambers tested positive for THG in 2003, becoming the first athlete connected to BALCO founder Victor Conte to test positive for the previously undetectable steroid.

"He is one of the few who stuck his hands up and said 'I did cheat and I'm sorry,' and admitted it," Radcliffe said after opening a Nike store near to London's Olympic Stadium. "A lot of people have done their time and never admitted it and they are allowed to come back and compete, and that isn't fair. ... It has to be a proper rule. I would rather see every country takes the BOA's rule on board but if not I think you have to have some sympathy for Dwain and the situation he is in."

WADA's European director Frederic Donze told the AP earlier this week that lifetime Olympic bans do not appear to be legally enforceable. However, British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said last week that 90 percent of British athletes supported the lifetime ban.

Radcliffe is the first high-profile British athlete to publicly question the rule following Merritt's victory at CAS.

"As an athlete who works really hard and puts a lot of hard work in, every time you compete against someone who has served a drugs ban that is a bit of a kick in the teeth because you are thinking, 'Are they clean now or they getting some advantage even if they are clean now," Radcliffe said. "(But) it isn't fair to penalize one athlete and allow the others."

Radcliffe was speaking a day after going to Monaco to urge IAAF president Lamine Diack to abandon plans to downgrade her world record of 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds set in London in 2003 to a world best because she ran with male pacemakers.

"It felt that a little bit of my achievements that day and how hard I worked for it was being devalued -- not just for me, for women all over," Radcliffe said. "Everybody's area records, national records (and world records) were just wiped out without any explanation or any warning. I think that hit a lot of women.

"And then going forward it's a little bit harsh because it limits women's options for setting world records because the majority of road races are mixed."

From January, the world record will be the fastest marathon run by a woman when she competes only against other women. Radcliffe holds that mark as well -- 2:17:42 -- also set in London, in 2005.

Radcliffe, whose sponsor is running a "History Counts" campaign," felt Diack was "understanding" in their meeting.

"It's not a case of winning because the rule has been set now, it's just a case of something being done about it going forward," she said. "So fingers crossed."

Despite still being the world record-holder, the one medal missing from Radcliffe's collection is an Olympic one.

The 33-year-old Briton can make amends when the games are staged in London next year. She finished third at the Berlin Marathon last month in 2:23.46 after a number of injuries and the birth of her second child.

"With a full healthy buildup I can definitely get back into much better shape ... it's still possible for next year," the 2005 world champion said. "I can move forward now and get back into training now."