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Team Scotland have lost moral high ground over lust for medals

THE British and World cycling bodies both declined to appeal against a slap-on-the-wrist suspension of just six months for a doping offence which leaves Scottish cyclist Bruce Croall free to compete at the Commonwealth Games.

Bruce Croall will join David Millar, another doping offender, on the track in Glasgow. Picture: Jamie Simpson
Bruce Croall will join David Millar, another doping offender, on the track in Glasgow. Picture: Jamie Simpson

He has already served the sentence and the window for appeal has closed. Had the verdict been challenged, a less lenient view might have been taken. Sportsmen and women must bear strict liability for any banned substance found in their system. The normal penalty is two years, but serious infractions and multiple offences can bring a four-year or even life bans from the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

However, Scottish Cycling confirmed yesterday that any challenge would have to have been lodged by last Friday. "There will be no further appeal," said a spokeswoman.

UK Anti-Doping said last night that British and world governing bodies had had the opportunity to raise concerns, but did not.

Track cyclist Croall will forfeit two gold medals from last year's UCI World Masters Championships in Manchester (where his two positive samples originated) and pay a fine of 2500 Swiss francs. However, he can count himself singularly fortunate that he may still ride the kilometre time trial in Glasgow 2014 despite a conviction for using the banned stimulant, oxilofrine.

The 35-year-old City of Edinburgh Racing Club rider, admitted when tested to having used a supplement, Dorian Yates Nox Pump, which he said he suspected might be the source of oxilofrine. He later heard it was unsafe at a Scottish Cycling presentation on October 27. Independent analysis confirmed the supplement contained oxilofrine of which there was no mention on any packaging, and in earlier tests he had undergone. This, and his prompt admission, helped establish innocence of intent to cheat.

The National Anti-Doping Panel which reviewed the case was chaired by William Norris QC and included medical and legal experts. They cleared the track cyclist of deliberate cheating, and back-dated the ban to the date of the offence, last October. It expired on April 9.

Despite the panel's belief that "he was at a significant degree of fault" and reaching their decision "not without reservations", his 2014 bid remains on course.

The decision will reignite debate over UCI commitment to anti-doping. President Brian Cookson was elected on an integrity ticket following the excesses of Pat McQuaid. More pertinently, it cannot other than confuse and disillusion competitors worldwide. They are baffled by serial inconsistency of global anti-doping attitudes and penalties imposed by different sports and in different countries. This despite a supposedly uniform code applied by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Olympic and Commonwealth sprint gold medallists Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson of Jamaica have recently received 18-month bans for using the same substance as Croall, disqualifying them from Glasgow. Cycling itself imposed a two-year suspension on US rider Flavia Oliviera in 2010, while last year Turkish swimmer Duygu Birol got two years and AEK Athens defender Christos Arkoudas received a 12-month ban. The International Powerlifting Federation sanctioned Guyana's world champion Gumendra Shewdas for two years, while Northern Ireland's former WBA super middleweight champion, Brian Magee, received six months: all tested positive for oxilofrine.

An amphetemine-type stimulant often used to treat low blood pressure, it can also increase adrenaline, improve endurance, focus and alertness as well as heart rate, increasing blood oxygenation - all performance-enhancing.

Powell, 100m world record-holder before his Jamaican compatriot Usain Bolt, indicated last week that he will appeal to CAS. "This ruling is not only unfair, it is patently unjust," he said. He confirms he used a legal supplement, Ephiphany D1, which was "contaminated with oxilofrine". Again, it was not listed on the label, but Powell commissioned two independent laboratories who confirmed oxilofrine's presence. Simpson offered the same defence.

Despite the independent labs' findings being replicated by both the US and world anti-doping authorities, the 18-month ban stands, unless CAS uphold the appeal. Double standards abound in doping, though WADA is attempting to rationalise and improve.

Scotland's European 200m champion, Dougie Walker was cleared by UK Athletics after traces of the steroid nandrolone were discovered in his system. A supplement was shown to be contaminated but there was no leniency, despite the Olympic-accredited laboratory in Cologne confirming Walker's was among a raft of supplements routinely adulterated (in a still-unregulated industry) with banned substances not shown on packaging. Despite UKA's decision, the world athletics body imposed a two-year suspension.

So, now, unless there are other challengers, we can look forward to Croall joining another doping offender, defending gold-medal cyclist David Millar, in Scotland's team. The ambivalence of Commonwealth Games Scotland (and English counterparts) ill-serves the fight against drugs. In Delhi, serial cheat Millar was the first reinstated offender to win Commonwealth gold for Scotland. Selection by CGS - selling principles in the hope of devalued gold - pre-dated the courts' betrayal of the Olympic movement by endorsing a cheats' charter and insisting they be allowed to compete. That warrants reconsideration now that residual benefit from years of doping is scientifically proven.

UK Anti-Doping will ensure the most rigorous programme ever in Glasgow, but Team Scotland's transparent lust for medals undermines the hosts' stance on the moral high ground.

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