Paula Radcliffe has called for drug testers to be allowed to travel without visas to stop cheats being forewarned of their arrival.
Russia’s athletes are currently suspended from international competition, while Ethiopia and Morocco were named as being in “critical care” by the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, this month, but Radcliffe said athletes could still be tipped off.
“In Ethiopia, Russia, Morocco you have to get visas so people can be warned before the testers go in,” she said on the eve of Saturday’s world half-marathon championships in Cardiff. “That has to be broken down.”
Thirty-seven Moroccan athletes have been suspended by the IAAF since 2003, while nine Ethiopian athletes recently failed drugs tests. Radcliffe believes that anti-doping authorities must implement tougher and more rigorous testing.
“It is a problem and the only way to deal with it is make sure we have reliable testing across the board,” the marathon world record holder said. “Everyone must be tested in the same way and subjected to the same testing regime, so we can actually believe in what we are watching.”
Radcliffe said she did not think the problems in Kenya, which has until 5 April to avoid being declared non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency, were as bad as in Russia despite a spate of positive tests. “It might be in Ethiopia. But in Kenya it is more likely to be rogue doctors and coaches. I don’t believe it is widespread. I believe that Kenya has a lot of very talented athletes.”
Radcliffe also said she shared the fears of Sebastian Coe, the IAAF president, expressed this week after Britain won three medals at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, that too many UK athletes were avoiding international competition.
“You can wrap them up in cotton wool all you like but then they get to the Olympics and are caught in the headlights and don’t know how to perform at a championships,” she said.
Radcliffe also called for other sports to catch up to athletics by giving as much coverage to women as men. “The media coverage that women’s football gets in comparison to the men’s game is not the same, and they are just as good role models. In athletics we’re very lucky because it’s more about the actual achievement and being the best that athletes can be.”
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