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Sunday February 19, 2006

Australia to probe Aouita drug allegations

MELBOURNE: Australian sports officials will investigate claims that former distance running coach Said Aouita pushed performance enhancing drugs while coaching in Australia. 

Australian steeplechaser Melissa Rollison alleges the Moroccan Olympic 5,000m champion suggested she take human growth hormone (HGH). 

Rollison’s claims follow that of another Australian athlete Mark Fountain, who made drug allegations against Aouita in 2004 in a letter to the government-funded Australian Sports Commission (ASC). 

Aouita’s two-year reign as Australia’s distance running coach ended the same year and he has not subsequently returned to Australia. 

The 2004 claims were investigated by the ASC, Athletics Australia (AA) and the Australian Institute of Sport but Aouita was cleared of any doping links. 

AA chief executive Danny Corcoran said the latest Rollison allegations had been referred to the ASC for investigation. 

Corcoran said Rollison’s claims were “simply allegations which may be difficult to verify”. 

Rollison said her 18 months as an athlete under Aouita were a nightmare, saying he recommended she take human growth hormone at a US training camp in 2003. 

“He talked about it every day,” Rollison told Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper yesterday. “We had to go to America because that is where you get HGH. 

“I said right at the start that I wasn’t interested and he said ‘everyone else is on it, so why wouldn’t you want to do it?’ I said I wanted to make it the proper way but he then tried to convince me HGH wasn’t illegal.” 

Aouita was recently appointed an adviser to Qatar’s Academy for Sporting Excellenc based in Doha. – AFP