ELLIOT Bunney spans the two great ages of Scottish sprinting. He competed against the ancient order of Allan Wells and Cameron Sharp, but is also an architect of the renaissance, as mentor and training partner to Scotland's new European 200 metres champion, Doug Walker.

Wells was part of the inspiration which launched Bunney on his way, Sharp helped him win his first major medal - at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in which Linford Christie made his major debut. Now these three are gone.

The six-time Scottish senior 100m champion has outlasted them all, for Walker has teased and cajoled Bunney from retirement, and at 31, he is about to line up for his fourth Games - a record for any Commonwealth sprinter which he will share with John Regis.

Yet much of the gilt was removed this week from his own memorable achievement by the injuries to Walker and Ian Mackie. These have ruled out the latter, and made the former's participation problematic at best.

For all his individual exploits, and these are considerable - European junior 100m champion, a 1984 win over Christie, fifth in the Commonwealth Games, Scottish indoor record holder and AAA champion at 60m, a record six Scottish senior 100m titles - it is as a relay runner that Bunney will best be remembered.

''I have been in the 4x100 metres final at three successive Commonwealths,'' says Bunney. ''In my heart I know that this time if I can run 10.30 with a legal wind and get to the semis I will have run well. I cannot compete over 100m at the very top level any more, but Dougie and Ian are world class, and with Ross Baillie and myself we had a relay squad that could have competed with anybody. It was capable of breaking the Scottish record, maybe even winning gold. We will never know now.

''I am gutted. I feel the loss of this relay team more keenly, because basically, that is all I had. Yes, I will look forward to doing the 100 metres one last time for Scotland. This will be my last race. But I tell you, if I could give up my place, and have these two - Dougie and Ian - in Kuala Lumpur fit and competing for individual medals, I would.

''I ran 10.20 for 100m when I was 19. Dougie ran 10.69, wind assisted. That shows it does not necessarily do to be good very young. Dougie is world-class now.''

There is 146 years of experience behind the pair. Their coach, Davie Gibson, the finger on the stopwatch, is just the youngster of the partnership, at 68. Starter Davie Taylor is 80 tomorrow.

Bunney has recently become Scotland's first athletes' agent, officially registered with the International Amateur Athletics Federation. He has just one client: Walker. He works full time as a manager with the charitable trust which operates West Lothian Council's sport and leisure centres. He does the agency work in the evenings, assisted by his wife, Elaine, a marketing graduate with a senior position in advertising.

''Once, athletics was my life,'' says Bunney. ''It was everything. Not any more. You realise there are other priorities. Now I have a wife, a job, a career. You realise there are more important things.''

Marriage and his career have made him a responsible though not sedate citizen, but Bunney has seen it all, done it all, and if he hasn't got the T-shirt, he has other memorable trophies. Ask him about the flag which he once broke his arm retrieving from a flagpole, or the catalogue of the most glamourous women in British athletics in whose company he was often to be found before his marriage - sprinter Mel Neef and long jumper Fiona May, now of Italy, among them.

Usually, however, everything ran second to sprinting. He even sat O Level biology in Budapest when making his senior Scotland debut at 17, when he ran second to Cameron Sharp, in 1983.

Drugs, he says, were a temptation just once. ''You get to a certain level, and unless you take some kind of strange chemical, you are not going to get the strength to improve - and my short stride was against me. Yes, I was vaguely tempted, but I soon snapped out of it.

''You would have to lie to so many people. I just don't know how some people can face living the rest of their lives as a lie, about how they achieved what they did.

''If I had taken steroids, I guess I'd have got very close to 10.00, possibly have made a lot of money. Who knows. I don't, and it doesn't matter now. There is no way I could ever take them.''

There is little regret at not having turned to rugby earlier, before his first retirement from athletics, in 1994. His first-team baptism with Heriot's was the 1995-96 championship decider against Stirling County - ''One touch, and I was high tackled by Kenny Logan.''

He played in the Scottish Select which beat Wales in the final to win the Selkirk sevens - ''Bloody hard work, one of the toughest things I have ever done'' - and gained one District honour, for Edinburgh against the Borders - ''I've still got the scars. Somebody stood on my leg, and I could see right to the bone.''

In 1986, at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, the 19-year-old Bunney was one of those who kept Wells out of the team, and finished fifth in the 100m. Ben Johnson won from Christie, Mike McFarlane and Desai Williams. First and fourth subsequently admitted to using drugs. ''I was a foot behind bronze. If they hadn't been there, or hadn't cheated, my life might have been different,'' he says.

With Sharp coming out of retirement to help the relay squad, Scotland took bronze.

Following these Games, he was sent to Stuttgart, ''just me and Daley Thomson, to practice for the European championships. I was 19, and away with the most famous athlete in the world. We worked all week, and then won bronze - Thomson, Christie, McFarlane and myself.''

Two years later, in Seoul, Bunney led off the relay in the Olympic final, to John Regis, McFarlane, and Christie. They took silver. ''Standing on the Olympic podium; nothing could beat that.''

There may have been better Scottish sprinters, but never one more committed to the national cause than Elliot Bunney.