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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 08:31 GMT
Gooch battles for hair-loss ad
Sarah Wilhelmy, Graham Gooch, and Helena Boyko
Graham Gooch being dunked by an Olympian and a model
Sarah Toyne

It was somewhat of a surreal cast, including a former England cricket captain, a stick-on hair-loss treatment, "virgin" Russian hair, a QC, and a 22.8 second 200 metre runner and Olympian.

The mixture was assembled by a hair loss treatment company, keen to settle a score with the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA is expected next week to ban an advert used by the company, which features Graham Gooch, the 48-year old former England cricket captain.

It features a claim by Advanced Hair Studio that once someone has undergone the treatment they can "swim, shower and play sports".

The England cricket hero decided to put this to the test.

'Torture test'

The "Great Hair Challenge" was aimed at proving that you could play sports, swim and shower, and as Mr Gooch has been so pleased with the treatment he offered to prove its merits in the spa of a central London hotel.

Mr Gooch has promoted the product for seven years, since he was introduced to it by a fellow cricketer, Australian Greg Matthews.

Graham Gooch
Graham Gooch tests hair with brush

Mr Gooch wouldn't say how much he was paid to promote the product, but the company said that he had free hair treatments.

It costs between 2,000 and 10,000 for the treatment, which then requires a monthly "service".

Mr Gooch's would cost an estimated 5,000.

The ASA upheld the complaint against the advert, even though the company submitted 150 signed testimonials from customers, including Mr Gooch.

It also submitted a promotional video showing three men "engaged in sporting activities" and the cricketer Greg Matthews swimming and playing sport.

Greg Matthews' video - which was shot at Sea World in Australia was described as a "torture test" by Carl Howell, the company's founder on Tuesday.

With video camera in tow, Tuesday's test will be used by the company to try and get the ban lifted.

The company also said that it wasn't ruling out legal action. A QC was casting a beady eye over the events.

"Virgin" Russian

Gooch on the bike
Gooch on the bike

Mr Howell, who has gorgeous thick, blonde hair himself, explained the process used to restore the cricketer's hair.

Advanced Hair Studio offers a number of treatments, but Mr Gooch's is a "strand-by-strand non-surgical treatment", made of "Virgin" Russian hair.

Russian is the finest and most expensive hair used by the company.

Russian blonde long hair can cost more than gold per ounce - apparently, but clients can also choose from cheaper Chinese or Indian hair.

Russian is "virgin", because it does not contain chemicals, whereas Chinese or Indian hair has to be processed to make blonde or light brown colours.

Mr Howell explained that growing hair for export had become a flourishing cottage industry, particularly among cash-strapped Russians.

Is it a wig?

Call the "strand-by-strand non-surgical treatment" a wig or toupee, and Advance Hair Studio's Carl Howell, is quick to protest.

Carl Howells
Carl Howells, founder of Advanced Hair Studio

"It's like calling a computer an adding machine. It's just so much more sophisticated," he told journalists.

"It is a 'second skin', almost like a prosthesis. A wig is something you put on and take off like a lady's wig. While a toupee is something you put on a block at night."

The second skin, in practice, is basically a long-life mesh-based wig which is glued onto someone's scalp.

Additional hair is then injected into the mesh which is by then glued to the head.

The wig must then be "serviced" every five weeks or so.

Nine metres long

Accompanying Mr Gooch on the "play sport, swim and shower exercise" was in true tabloid style a model and, perhaps more unusually, an Olympian.

Helena Byko, model, with Graham Gooch, and Olympian Sarah Wilhelmy
Gooch in the gym

Sarah Wilhelmy, a bronze medallist at the World Junior Championship in 1998 - whose personal best for 200m is 22.8 second - is coincidentally a svelte 21-year-old blonde and client of Advanced Hair Studio.

She has hair extensions, using the "tuft by tuft" method - another treatment offered by the company.

After a few minutes on the bicycle, and a couple of exertions on the bench, Mr Gooch posed for photographers in the nine metre-long swimming pool.

Two assistants were on hand, armed with hairbrushes, to smooth out any ruffles.

Sarah and Helena joined him for a couple of poses. They then proceeded to dunk him for the photographers.

The ultimate act came with a dive and underwater swimming.

And when he surfaced, his hair was intact.

There was a collective sigh of relief among those sceptics present.

Walked the walk

Graham Gooch
Hair is still there after swim and gym

An hour later in the comfort of one of the hotel's suites, and after he had dried off, Mr Gooch criticised the ASA's decision.

He said that he had "walked the walk" - played international cricket, run marathons and water rafted with his new hair.

"These are very demanding activities in terms of your body heat and body sweating. I have never had a problem, it performs just like natural hair.

"I don't hold any credence with the complaint," Mr Gooch told BBC News Online.

The last chapter of the slightly bizarre event, was when BBC News Online was invited to take a picture of Mr Gooch in the shower.

It was time to make excuses and leave it up to the five suited men walking behind him, armed with the video camera, into the adjoining room.

While the Advertising Standards Authority has ruffled some company feathers in the past, this stunt was unprecedented.

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Business
Tesco rebuke over price claims
14 Nov 01 | New Media
Text message ad rapped
19 Dec 01 | England
Watchdog raps share-letter firm
20 May 01 | Panorama
Quiz Graham Gooch
12 May 01 | England v Pakistan
Gooch backs England bowlers
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