Track Agents Hope to Curb "Serious" Offenders

Story written by Eric

The Association of Athletics Managers (AAM) agreed in November 2007 that it would not represent any track and field athlete who tests positive for -- and is convicted of -- a doping violation which penalises the athlete for two or more years.

It was a hard stance taken against cheats, but a decisive one which sends a clear message to athletes: Doing the crime equals doing the time, but forgiveness won't come by way of powerful men in charge of securing placements in meets when those fallen athletes return.

And, as it turns out, many meets in Europe won't accept those athletes, either.

The agent initiative, which was signed 2007-November-9, has gathered momentum with 30 members representing virtually every high-profile athlete across the globe -- athletes who won 31 individual Gold Medals in the Athens Olympics four years ago.

The AAM's goal is to improve the professional status of the sport of athletics on a worldwide basis, and, in having signed a pact inclusive of the top agents, it believes it will have better opportunity to police and license managers and agents.

According to Mark Wetmore, who works at Global Athletics and Marketing managing about 70 track and field athletes from around the world -- including triple 2007 IAAF World Outdoor champion Tyson Gay, agents came together to form the disciplinary committee in a concerted attempt to take a stand in the sport.

"We have to help clean up our sport in any way we can. We're not helping these things if athletes can get another agent, another manager. We shouldn't support it in any way," he stated to the Boston Globe on 2008-Jaunary-27.

Other reknowned agents who have signed on the dotted line include Emmanuel Hudson, whose track club, HSI, includes a former banned athlete, Torri Edwards; Renaldo Nehemiah, whose star client has been banned Olympic 100m champion Justin Gatlin; and John Regis, who worked with Dwain Chambers -- a former BALCO client who's currently involved in an upheaval with UK Athletics in Great Britain.

Wetmore has also had one client fall prey to the drug game, sprinter Aziz Zakari.

Said Wetmore, who is also 110m hurdle world-record holder Liu Xiang's agent, to The Independent:

"You hear such sweeping statements being made about the sport – that doping is all the fault of the coaches, or of the agents – and we wanted to make it clear to people that we didn't have anything to do with it. We take this issue very seriously and we feel we have to make a stand. I think you are seeing groups independently coming to the same conclusions right now. The meeting promoters and the agents are now shoulder-to-shoulder against doping."

The Euromeetings group, whose members conduct track-and-field meets here on the European circuit, have also made a pact to refuse entry to current or future athletes convicted of serious doping violations -- those whose violations require a two- or more year banishment.

The Euromeetings are headed by president Rajne Soderberg, who also serves as meeting director of the DN Galan event in Stockholm.

Chambers failed a test for THG -- an undetectable steroid issued by Victor Conte's BALCO laboratories in California, USA -- in 2003, and later admitted candidly that he had taken steroids for a longer period of time than that for which he had been caught.

The Euromeetings group is comprised of quite a few meeting arrangers who had payed Chambers to compete at their track meets whilst he was a doped athlete, and who have requested that they be payed back the money he in essense stole whilst falsely presenting himself as a clean athlete.

He returned to full-time athletics competition in 2006 following his 24-month ban, and helped Great Britain secure a gold medal in the 4x100m relay down in Göteborg at the EAA European Outdoor Championships that August. Chambers then attempted to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL, was unsuccessful, and then decided to return to the track.

UK Athletics' row with Chambers stems from Chambers not having been on the active drug testing programme during his time spent away from the sport in 2007, and state they can not assure he is a clean athlete. Chambers has been tested since his return to competition this indoor season, but the stated effects of Conte's drugs are said to have an effect life of up to two years.

The Euromeetings group may flex their arms and prohibit Chambers from competing in their events -- much like they have with blocking his entry at today's on-going Norwich Union Grand Prix meet in Birmingham. In doing so, however, they effectively shoot themselves in the foot, as a percentage of money Chambers earns can be garnished and used toward repayment to them.

One athlete, American hurdler Damu Cherry, has already felt the backlash resulting from a previous ban, and was removed from the starting list at the Olso Golden League meeting when Daniel Wessfeldt, another prominent agent who signed the agreement, had her removed.

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