McConnell fury at leniency for US drug cheats

LEE McConnell yesterday accused the body in charge of world athletics of being soft on drugs and described their decision to allow the US relay team to keep their gold medals from the 2004 Athens Olympics as “disgusting”.

The 400m runner reacted angrily after it emerged the American 4x400m women’s relay team would not be punished despite one of their runners admitting she had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Crystal Cox, who did not run in the final, confessed six years after the Greek Olympics that she had been doping. She was stripped of her gold medal.

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The International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) yesterday announced that the rest of the team would be allowed to keep their golds.

Glaswegian McConnell and team-mates Donna Fraser, Catherine Murphy and Christine Ohuruogu, finished fourth at the Athens Games, and expected to be upgraded to bronze following the doping revelations.

She said: “It is a step back in the fight against drug cheats in sport. It’s disappointing because you’d like to think there would be a stronger stance taken on people taking drugs in the sport.

“It’s the fact that it’s such a light punishment on the team. There are rules that even if one person on a team is caught then the whole team gets stripped of their medals.

“The punishments just aren’t tough enough. The deterrents have to be strong, otherwise people will still have the incentive to use drugs. And teams shouldn’t keep medals if one of them was cheating.”

The IOC said yesterday it now considered the matter closed.

A statement read: “Crystal Cox had her medal withdrawn but the rest of the team will retain their medals.

“The IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] is responsible for interpreting their rules and amending results of their competition where appropriate – in this case the time limit has now expired, and the results and medal allocations stay as they are.”