Allan Wells: Drug talk like false sex crime claims

SCOTTISH Olympic hero Allan Wells has said that being accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs felt like being falsely accused of sex crimes.

Alan Wells watched Panoramas claims he used drugs "in utter disbelief". Picture: Robert Perry
Alan Wells watched Panoramas claims he used drugs "in utter disbelief". Picture: Robert Perry

The former sprinter and 1980 Moscow gold medallist says he watched the BBC Panorama programme, in which the claims were made, in “utter disbelief”.

He said the allegations left him feeling like he had been falsely named and shamed in the same way as Operation Yewtree targeted comedian Jimmy Tarbuck.

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He also fears the claims will tarnish his high-profile sprinting coach wife Margot, as well as the reputation of other sportsmen he coached.

Wells, 63, said: “I watched Panorama in utter disbelief. On the one hand, there was footage of my victories and the medal ceremonies. But at the same time I was being accused of being a cheat. That everything I had achieved was based on a lie.

“Of course it was devastating. It’s very difficult to defend yourself against allegations, especially ones that are decades old, without people saying: ‘He would say that, wouldn’t he’.

“I understand now what someone like Jimmy Tarbuck went through. My entire career was pulled apart in the court of public opinion on the say-so of a guy who admitted being a drugs cheat, who made no secret of the fact he hated me.

“It also relied on transcripts of comments, not the actual recordings, made by a doctor who is now dead.

“People have asked me what it’s like to have the achievements I worked so hard for to be questioned like this.

“But I can’t think about it in those terms, the consequences would be dire. Ultimately, I know I didn’t dope, I know I was clean, and I know the strength of the allegations.

“I’m dealing with it one day at a time and, with my family’s support, I’ll get through it.”

The BBC documentary accused Wells of being a serial doper throughout his career in the 1970s and 1980s.

It also detailed allegations the British team doctor at the time, Jimmy Ledingham, supplied him with steroids that helped him win gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Many of the claims came from Wells’s former team-mate Drew McMaster. The pair were part of Scotland’s 1978 Commonwealth Games 4 x 100 metre relay team that won gold in Edmonton along with Cameron Sharp and David Jenkins.

However, years later, McMaster and Jenkins admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

And in 1995 McMaster, now 58, made drug allegations against Wells, Ledingham and others. They all denied the claims.

McMaster, of Ormiston, East Lothian, said he was approached by the BBC around a year ago and was interviewed by them for six hours.

He added: “I’ve been waiting 30 years for this. Nothing has changed, I’ve reiterated what I said in 1995.”

But despite the attack on his credibility, Wells said he bears no grudges.

He said: “What’s the point in being bitter and angry with him? I’ve no idea what’s motivated him to speak out, and to be honest I’ve not really got any feelings for him at all.

“There’s no doubt we were rivals, but for me we needed each other to push hard, to achieve better performances.

“I can’t control how history will judge me.

“This has been disappointing, a very difficult episode to cope with. But, Margot and I will stay strong.

“We both know I didn’t dope and that’s the most important thing, not rumour and innuendo.”

After Panorama aired, a lawyer acting for Wells lodged a formal complaint.