A BOLD and imaginative new initiative is set to revitalise Scotland's

flagging athletic fortunes. Ian Clifton, secretary of the cross-country

commission of the newly-formed Scottish Athletic Federation, confirmed

yesterday that he has won approval for an inaugural Commonwealth

Cross-Country Championship, to be launched in 1994 at Irvine.

Ever since world athletics leaders stabbed Scotland in the back by

expelling the four home nations following the 1987 world championships,

the sport has been in domestic decline. The loss of the major incentive

of Scottish representation on the country caused a domino effect in

men's track -- no home runner has subsequently made any international

impact at 5000 or 10,000 metres.

''This will again give Scots the opportunity to win a national vest,''

said Clifton. ''We have been acutely aware of how badly the sport was

hit by the International Amateur Athletic Federation stopping us from

competing, and I am delighted for the athletes.

''The matter was raised at the Commonwealth Federation meeting in

Barcelona, and this week the Scottish Commonwealth Games Council's

secretary, George Hunter, has confirmed that the federation has raised

no objection.''

The next step will be to contact Commonwealth countries, inviting them

to send teams. The proposed date is March, 1994, a fortnight before the

world championships in Hungary, when many Commonwealth nations would

already be in Europe to acclimatise.

''We already have a sponsor and venue,'' said Clifton, whose

brainchild the event is. ''It will be backed by Irvine Development


Irvine's Magnum has been an outstanding site for national

championships in recent years. The development corporation who backed

these events, in partnership with the now defunct Scottish Cross Country

Union, attempted to host the 1995 world championships. ''But the worlds

were stolen from us -- highjacked by Durham,'' said Clifton.

For many years secretary of the SCCU, Clifton was angered by the

manner of Durham's take-over. He felt English officials betrayed the

Scots. He was also annoyed when a further attempt to give Scots an

international vest was spiked by the axing of Britain's world

championship trial race.

In future these will be held as part of England's inter-county

championships -- a device to throw a lifeline to that declining event,

and one which means Scots cannot gain a vest, as it is not an

international. Clifton's opposition cost him his post as secretary of

the UK cross-country commission.

''Naturally, we hope that as many countries as possible will send

teams to this inaugural Commonwealth Championship,'' said Clifton. ''I

have not approached other nations yet, because it would have been

premature without Games federation approval. But if England decline, we

will go ahead without them.''

Scotland were founders of the International Cross Country Union -- one

reason why expulsion from the IAAF world championships cut so deep. But

now, just as they staged the first world event, at Hamilton racecourse

in 1903, they are proud to be taking another historic step. Clifton

added: ''I hope that having got this going, it will become a permanent

event, annually or four-yearly.''

Tommy Murray, Scotland's current cross-country champion and winner of

the national indoor 3000m and outdoor 10,000m track titles, said last

night: ''I think this is a really good idea. They should re-arrange the

calender and make the national championships the selection race for the

Commonwealth event.''

Murray, the only home Scot to run in Britain's world championship team

this year, added: ''The top few runners should also have the chance to

run in the Worldcross series to help preparations.''

* SEVEN sports want to tap into a #60,000 fund from the Scottish

Sports Council as part of what amounts to the biggest shake-up in the

history of minority sport in this country.

The money is available under the council's Development Initiative

scheme, which employs management consultants to review the way in which

sport bodies are organised and to improve their development.

Three sports -- fencing, ski-ing, and hockey -- have been involved in

a successful #30,000 pilot scheme, which will make a significant

difference to their future progress. Now four other sports are to be

included as the project really takes off.

The council's director of operations, Brian Porteous, who was

instrumental in bringing the idea from Holland, said: ''Scottish

governing bodies have very limited resources -- volunteer effort can be

wasted like money. People get so embroiled they rarely have time to take

a step back, hence the independent consultancy. But sports themselves

must decide on how to make the required changes. There is no coercion.''

The Scottish Keep Fit Association, yachting, shinty, athletics, water

ski-ing, swimming, and tennis have all asked to be put under the

microscope. Gymnastics and sea angling have expressed an interest, but

have yet to decide.

Fencing, where a substantial financial problem was identified and

averted, hockey and ski-ing all face radical change, hopefully for the

better, and the rest of Britain's sports councils are watching with


* THERE was a positive test for the anabolic and stimulant drug

Clenbuterol at the British Olympic athletic trials in Birmingham this

year. But the competitor, who has not been named, was an Australian and

not an Olympic team member.

Neil King, director of Athletics Australia, confirms that no

suspension has been imposed yet, pending confirmation as to whether the

relevant suspension for Clenbuterol (for which Katrin Krabbe was banned)

should be three months (as a stimulant) or four years (as an anabolic).

If the ban was imposed now, in the Aussie close season, the athlete

would be back in action for next season, effectively serving no ban at


David Jenkins, who served a jail sentence for steroid trafficking, was

in no doubt about Clenbuterol, even before the Krabbe revelations and

British weight-lifters Andrew Saxton and Andrew Davies were disgraced in


''I don't think people understand how powerful Clenbuterol is,'' said

Scotland's former European 400 metres champion. ''Guys I know are using

it and getting some extraordinary results . . . huge strength increases

after only 12 days.''