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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 16:31 GMT

Bell criticises Baxter decision

Former British skier Graham Bell has spoken out against Olympic bosses for stripping Alain Baxter of his Olympic bronze medal.

Bell, now the performance director for the British Ski and Snowboard Federation, also told BBC Sport Online that he would be backing any appeal made by Baxter against the decision.

"The IOC is the only body in the world to convict an innocent man rather than question its own code," Bell told BBC Sport Online.

"I thought that the new IOC was more athlete-centred, but they have a code that isn't right"
Graham Bell

The International Olympic Committee's executive board confirmed on Thursday that Baxter would lose the bronze medal he won at Salt Lake City after failing a drugs test.

The 28-year-old Scot produced a positive sample for the prohibited substance methamphetamine, which he later claimed he had inadvertently taken via a Vicks nasal stick.

Many correctly predicted Baxter's fate because of the IOC's 'strict liability' rule, which states that the athlete is responsible for any banned substance found in his or her body.

But Bell has criticised the rule, stating that it should be changed.

"I thought that the new IOC was more athlete-centred, but they have a code that isn't right. It's a question of actual justice," he said.

"If Alain does appeal, there's definitely a great case to answer and I think I speak for the BSF when I say that we will back him 100%."

National uproar

Bell also said that the decision has stirred up anti-IOC feeling in Scotland, especially after Baxter also got in trouble with Salt Lake City officials for dying his hair blue with the cross of St Andrew.

"Scottish feeling is running high, a lot higher than in London," he said.

"There were two issues at Salt Lake City involving Alain.

"One was about Alain not being allowed to paint a flag on his head and the other is the medal issue.

"I think both these issues are getting rolled into one in Scotland."

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