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Last Updated: Monday, 9 August, 2004, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Lombard case a 'deterrent'
Cathal Lombard
Athletics Ireland has said that the exposure of Irish athlete Cathal Lombard as a drugs cheat will act as a major deterrent to others.

The 28-year-old middle distance runner has admitted he took the banned substance EPO, after testing positive in an out-of-competition test.

"It shows the system is working to an extent," said Athletics Ireland spokesman Pierce O'Callaghan.

"We're very proud of the anti-doping unit and the work they're doing."

The AAI is awaiting a written response from Lombard, which must be provided before 1700 BST on Tuesday.

Lombard, who was training in northern Italy when news of the test result broke, is certain to be removed from the Irish Olympic team.

The Corkman, who was scheduled to run the 10,000m in Athens, now faces a two-year ban from the sport although his US agent Ray Flynn has said that the athlete's career "is over".

Athletics Ireland official O'Callaghan said that the "noose is closing around the necks of those athletes who are trying to cheat."

He added that the test result did not reflect on the other members of the Irish athletic team.

"There's always going to be bad eggs in society, people who deal with drugs, drink-drivers, and sports reflects that as a microcosm.

It could have happened during the games and that would have been much worse
Irish Olympic spokesman Jack McGouran

"It would be very disingenuous to say it (drug-taking) is rampant. I don't believe that at all."

The Irish Sports Council revealed that it had requested the Swiss Olympic Council to carry out a urine test on Lombard on 11 July 11 in St Moritz because of his status as an Olympic athlete and the dramatic improvements in his performance in recent times.

A spokesman said: "The Irish Anti-Doping Programme has a critical role in protecting the integrity of sport, the health of our athletes and in maintaining confidence in the legitimacy of performances for the vast majority of athletes."

Olympic Council of Ireland officials have insisted that morale is still high among the Irish team despite the doping revelations.

Around 28 athletes are training in Cyprus at the moment, with 90% of the 47-strong team expected to be in Athens for the opening ceremony on Friday.

Spokesman Jack McGouran said the news of Lombard's positive test was a "ten-minute wonder".

"Most of the athletes knew it was coming down the line at some stage," said McGouran.

"It's a situation that could have happened during the games and that would have been much worse.

"Everyone is quite happy that it's happened at this stage and that they can get on with their business, which is to bring home the medals."

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