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  Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Edwards leaps to Yegorova's defence
Paula Radcliffe makes her Edmonton protest
Radcliffe (r) made her feelings clear about Yegorova
British athletics hero Jonathan Edwards has spoken out against the treatment of Olga Yegorova at the World Athletics Championships.

The controversial Russian was the subject of intense anti-drug protests in Edmonton and was booed by the home crowd when she received her gold medal in the 5000m.

But triple jump world champion Edwards has sprung to her defence, saying that she was "an easy target".

Writing in The Times, he said: "I actually felt sorry for her. I feel that she has been harshly and unfairly treated."


The knee-jerk demonisation of the Russian athlete leaves a sour taste in my mouth
Jonathan Edwards
Yegorova was thrust into the centre of a drugs row after testing positive for the banned substance EPO.

The Russian, who was allowed to participate in the 5000m due to a technicality, provoked disapproval from anti-drug campaigners, including Paula Radcliffe.

The British team captain made her feelings known during one of Yegorova's races by holding up a placard which read: "EPO cheats out."

But Edwards is highly critical of what he calls "an unprecedented backlash against an individual athlete".

He added: "The knee-jerk demonisation of the Russian athlete leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

"The easiest, and safest, line for me to take would be to fall in step with this vilification of Yegorova, the very personification of evil in sport.

"But my conscience will not let me do it."

Olga Yegorova
Yegorova was "unable to give an eloquent rebuttal"
One of Edwards complaints is that the runner has not been able to defend herself and has been presumed guilty, partly because she is Russian.

"She cannot speak English, and was unable to give an eloquent rebuttal of the test findings," he said.

"She is an athletic nobody, without powerful allies to lobby on her behalf.

"But perhaps the nail in her coffin is her nationality. She has suffered guilt by association, linked in our minds to the systematic doping by the former Soviet Union."

Edwards questioned whether public response would have been different if she had been Canadian or British.

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13 Aug 01 | World Athletics
11 Aug 01 | World Athletics
09 Aug 01 | World Athletics
12 Aug 01 | World Athletics
Links to more World Athletics stories are at the foot of the page.


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