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Has Ohuruogu won over her sceptics?

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BBC 5Live's athletics commentator Mike Costello gives his reaction to world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu's appearance on BBC One's Inside Sport:

If Christine goal was to win over at least some of the sceptics, her approach had to soften - and it did.

The day after success in Osaka, she told Radio 5Live's Breakfast programme, in trenchant style, "I don't really have much to defend myself for . . . people can either accept that or they can leave it. I've explained and explained myself to two panels. I'm not going into all that."

Fast forward 11 days to Inside Sport and the tone has changed: "I don't wish to make excuses . . . it was a big error on my part . . . I do take responsibility . . I've paid the penalty for a huge mistake."

There was not a flicker, much less a flinch, as she addressed the most baffling - and to many the most suspicious - issue. How come she missed "not one, not two but three" tests?

She forgot. Just as Tim Don forgot. Just as many others forgot or failed to fully understand the system - until Ohuruogu (and, to a lesser extent, Don) got the red card.

UK Sport, the body responsible for carrying out the tests, reported that within weeks of Ohuruogu being suspended, the number of athletes updating their whereabouts information increased by 350%.

Becky Lyne, Britain's Female Athlete of the Year in 2006, is among a number of competitors across sports quivering on two missed tests. More than a hundred have missed at least one.

It is reasonable to surmise that the whereabouts system, introduced in July 2005, was not being taken seriously enough by Ohuruogu and others in the early stages (her first missed test was recorded in October of the same year).

Maybe an element of risk-taking was involved also, for there must have been occasions when an athlete forgot to contact UK Sport about a change and the tester did not show up anyway. So they got lucky.

In Ohuruogu's case, both UK Athletics and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, in their separate judgments, said "there is no suggestion that she is guilty of taking drugs". CAS added that Ohuruogu was "a busy athlete being forgetful".

In between the missed tests, and many times since the suspension was imposed, she returned negative tests, so the authorities must by now have a reasonable profile of her - compiled across not months but years.

Would the likes of Paula Radcliffe, as an anti-drugs ambassador, and Seb Coe, as London 2012 chairman, be so supportive if there was reason to doubt?

Ohuruogu said she understood that some questioned how an athlete who had been off the track for a year could rebound with such force. "If I was at home, Id have had the same suspicions," she said.

And yet, it is not uncommon for athletes to strike form early in their season, particularly if training has gone as well as Ohuruogu's build-up. Craig Pickering equalled his lifetime best in his first big race of the season, in awful conditions in Glasgow in early June.

And Ohuruogu has done it before. Last year, because the Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne, the British athletes were among many competing out-of-season, with scant opportunity for a competitive build-up. Ohuruogu found the sharpness to win 400m gold.

As to the relative value of Commonwealth gold, she beat the then world and Olympic champion Tonique Williams Darling into second place. Novlene Williams took the bronze, just as she did in Osaka.

Ohuruogu has a habit of producing when it matters. And on Inside Sport, her performance was assured and measured, almost nerveless. She recognised the need to become a "model athlete".

But how many hearts ands minds will be with her in the quest?

Latest 10 comments

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posted Sep 15, 2007

While I am not convinced that she has taken drugs, she has broken the rules. Not once, Not twice, but 3 times has she failed to make herself available for testing.

You receive a written warning after your first miss and a final written warning after your second miss. To then claim it was an innocent mistake is negligent at best.

If you were disciplined at your work and given a written warning and a final written warning for breaking the rules at your job would you then casually do it again? If you did would you really be surprised if you then lost your job?

This strikes me as yet another case where a high-profile sports person has ignored the rules that everyone else has to live with because they are "special".

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posted Sep 16, 2007

While at this stage I am as convinced as is possible that Christine has been free of drugs and should be allowed to run in the Olympics one piece of information has not come to my attention. Could somebody please tell me how many tests she took (obviously successfully) in the 18 month period during which she missed those three tests.

The Times article (p.85, 14 September 2007) on Nicola Sanders made clear how difficult, correctly in the circumstances, the drugs testing regime is so I find it surprising that very little, if anything, seems to have been written on the tests that were NOT missed.

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posted Sep 17, 2007

I am pretty convinced that CO is not a drugs cheat, not now not ever.
I think UKA could really help her case by supplying to the public the results of her tests, both around her "no shows" and during the past year of her ban.
Also what UKA can do is to show the public how many other athletes are on the 2nd missed test.

I have been told that there is one of our top hurdlers on their 2nd missed test, along with one of our promising young sprinters!

This just shows the flaws in the system and the lack of responsibility that the athletes take for themselves. Though, saying that surely CO's management group KALM/Nuff Respect should have

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comment by Nitebot (U1534244)

posted Sep 20, 2007

I don't think Kenderis had 'many' clean tests. He had a few at championships and the odd circuit event and that was about it.

I disagree about Christine being defiant on the 5 Live shows. The presenters were having a right go at her straight after her success. No wonder she was defensive.

As for tai9nintg the Olympics. There's going to be plenty of proven cheats there from others countries. Let's not try and make out Christine's some juicing goddess. Honestly!

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comment by Flumpy (U1697169)

posted Sep 23, 2007

comment by expertFrankT
posted 6 Days Ago

Could somebody please tell me how many tests she took (obviously successfully) in the 18 month period during which she missed those three tests.


I think it was 54

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comment by tim400 (U1822727)

posted Sep 24, 2007

Could somebody please tell me just how many tests she has missed in the last year?
She managed to miss three in the eleven months leading up to that but perhaps not one since?

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posted Sep 26, 2007

I think a degree of context is needed.
CO misses three tests and is hung out to dry.
Why don't we list all the UK athletes who currently have missed two tests.
Then, for good measure, list all those who've missed one test.
How many athletes do we have left?

I've read lots from correspondents who've drawn analogies between CO and meetings at work. Sorry, it's not the name. Nor is it the same as Michael Rasmussen or Rio Ferdinand. They are ALL different and each has to be assessed on the evidence. And in CO's case - the circumstances surrounding EACH missed test. To the detractors, are you saying that it was 100% CO's fault and no one else's in each case?
I doubt it!

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posted Oct 8, 2007

THanks Flumpy - 3 missed tests out of 54. Add that to the fact that CAS themselves stated "there is no suggestion that she is guilty of taking drugs" suggest she is innocent so it seems harsh on the basis of forgetfulness to ban an athlete from the holy grail of her profession.

At the end of the day some sceptics are unable to put themselves in the shoes of the people they condemn nor are they willing to try. Not all - some are willing to weigh up the evidence and change their perspective where they are convinced and healthy scepticism is important to prevent the cheats.

But for those who stubbornly cling to the tenets of their creed without looking at all the evidence (as CAS obviously did), if they are the the only people that reinstating her is going to upset then I say reinstate her if just so they can entertain us further with their incessant whining.

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posted Oct 10, 2007

Here's an idea: get a random celebrity (bbc sports presenter or someone outside the sports world) to live according to the drug testing system for a certain period of time. two weeks, a month, whatever. i believe it must be very easy to forget to tell drug testers where you are going to be at all times, so it would be interesting to see how they manage. The whole system still hasn't yet been fully explained to the sports-watching public, so the scepticism is understandable. It would also be interesting to see if they actually 'fail' any tests, for example due to innocent vitamin pills or over-the-counter remedies. How about it BBC?

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