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Cleared of a doping test tampering charge, Moray hammer thrower Mark Dry was then handed a crippling four-year ban which he is fighting to defend 'what's right in sport'

By Craig Christie

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MARK Dry is refusing to give up his fight to overturn his four-year ban from athletics, which he has branded a “miscarriage of justice”.

Happier times for Mark Dry at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The hammer ace is now fighting a four-year athletics ban.
Happier times for Mark Dry at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The hammer ace is now fighting a four-year athletics ban.

A trip north to see his parents in Burghead led to the Commonwealth Games double bronze medallist facing charges of alleged tampering of the anti-doping process.

The 32-year-old hammer thrower was told by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping authority (UKAD)he would face no consequences for failing to declare his visit to Moray while doping control officers were calling at his English home to check on his whereabouts as part of the anti-doping system.

Even when he was charged, his case was taken to a National Anti-Doping Panel who ruled that no breach had taken place and cleared him. However, the UKAD successfully appealed that decision late in 2019, and Dry was banned from athletics for four years.

“This isn’t a case of me just disagreeing with the decision, this is a miscarriage of justice and the law hasn’t been applied correctly,” Dry said. “There’s clearly a problem with the ruling.

“How can two panels who are supposed to come to the same conclusion come to completely polar opposite decisions? That clearly highlights that there is a discrepancy in the rule, which means they have to be analysed by a third party.

“They are just desperate for me to drop this, thinking ‘he’ll get tired and he’ll give it up’ - and I absolutely will not. This isn’t about me any more, it’s about defending what’s right in sport.”

“I’ve got the cleanest track record, equal to anyone in Britain and they have thrown the book at me.”

Dry had initially failed to log his location with the authorities, a filing failure offence which carries no more punishment than a strike against his name. Even three strikes in a year would have simply led to him being referred from the domestic testing pool (DTP) he was part of, to a registered testing pool (RTP) carrying the same three-strikes which, if breached could mean a maximum two-year ban.

The athlete, keen to avoid a first strike and any kind of blemish to his clean sporting record, admits he made an innocent mistake by telling the authorities that he went fishing on the day of the officers’ check of his home.

Recovering from hip reconstruction surgery, he made the decision to visit his parents in Burghead, who he hadn’t seen in months. The timing of the trip was in order to travel with his girlfriend, who works as a teacher and was on half-term holiday.

At the same time, anti-doping personnel called at his home address, got no answer and spoke to a neighbour who mentioned how Dry had mentioned a trip north.

“They’ve asked me why I was not home and I’ve just said I was out fishing. When they asked me about Scotland I said no, a natural reaction not to get in trouble. I didn’t think it was serious because they had sent me a letter saying there were no consequences for a filing failure.”

When told an investigation would be launched, Dry admitted he had lied about his fishing trip and then gave the authorities a signed statement, apologising and saying he was keen to avoid a strike against his fully-clean record in athletics.

But that lie led to events spiralling from “no consequences” to a charge under the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, which accused him of “conduct which subverts the doping control process”. His alleged crime was tampering with the system by “providing fraudulent information”. However , World Athletics anti-doping regulations label tampering as “engaging in any fraudulent conduct to alter results or to prevent normal procedures from occurring”.

The complexity of Dry's long-running saga is highlighted in great detail in a piece written by the Sports Integrity Initiative, see tweet below.

“You can’t have a conversation with anyone who says what I did was tampering,” Dry added. “I’m not a fraud or a cheat. I’m not deceitful.

“What I did was stupid and it was a lie. A throwaway thing in the spur of the moment, a human error and one which I admitted and I stand by is incorrect.”

There’s even a previous example of a sportsman found to have lied to authorities but who was cleared of anti-doping tampering allegations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in the case of New Zealand cycling coach Kris Murray that a lie in itself did not necessarily amount to providing “fraudulent information”.

However, as Dry is only on the domestic testing programme and not considered to be an international athlete, his case can’t be heard by the CAS unless British Athletics decide to take it to that level, an option they have so far ignored.

He will continue to pressure his governing body to take action and use public support in his favour.

“I would never sleep at night if I just let this slide. This needs to be changed for the sake of anyone that ends up in this position.

“It isn’t OK.”

Next week, in part two of this story, read about Mark Dry's aim to overturn his athletics ban and become "the most driven man on this planet" with ambitions to make another Olympics and go for a third consecutive Commonwealth Games podium place.

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