ALLEGATIONS that Olympic sprint champion Allan Wells was a drugs cheat are a “whole load of rubbish,” according to the coach who trained him in the run-up to his 1980 Olympic Games triumph.
Wells won the Olympic 100-metre final in Moscow – one of only three British athletes to do so – and four Commonwealth Games gold medals during his career.
But last night allegations he used performance-enhancing steroids were made in a BBC Panorama programme by Drew McMaster, Wells’ former sprint team-mate.
McMaster, who in 1995 admitted to taking drugs during his athletics career and first accused Wells of taking drugs, alleged last night that Jimmy Ledingham, the former Great Britain team doctor, had told him he was supplying Wells with steroids.
But Bill Walker, a coach at Edinburgh Athletic Club who worked with Wells for 18 months in the run up to the Moscow Olympics, dismissed the allegations and insisted Wells “never, ever” asked for drugs.
Mr Walker said Ledingham, who died in 1998, “would not have” given the sprinter drugs, but claimed the doctor had offered to give Wells a placebo to allay concerns the athlete had over others cheating.
For so-called investigative journalism to be based on gossip and hearsay from a dead, corrupt doctor and a bitter, disgraced athlete takes the BBC into worrying territory. This was not an editorial investigation. It was a lurid dramaProfessor Peter Watson
The 77-year-old said: “It’s a whole load of rubbish. Drew McMaster is the one that was taking the drugs, and he was jealous all the time. He’s just a stirrer. Wells always moaned about [drugs]. He was always moaning that he might get beaten by somebody who was taking drugs. He was concerned that he was doing all this work, and somebody might beat him who was taking drugs.
“I said to [Ledingham], he’s always moaning away about drugs. He said, ‘Look, if you want to keep him quiet, you can send him to me and I’ll give him a placebo and tell him it’s a special tablet that will make him recover quicker.’
“He said, ‘You can tell him I’ve got tablets that are not banned. But they’re just wee placebos. It’s nothing that’s going to do him any good.’ He wouldn’t have benefited from them, anyway. But he [Wells] never, ever asked for it.”
He added: “It wasn’t like he was an overnight success. He worked hard to get there and it took him, what, 20 years to get there. It was just hard work. He could sit and do six sets of 100 press-ups, and 100 sit-ups. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he did.
“I don’t know where they get their stories from. As far as I know, he never took them. He asked about it, and what the difference was and all that – as anybody would. I’ve got athletes now and they still say, ‘What would drugs do?’”
In last night’s BBC investigation, McMaster alleged Dr Ledingham had told him he was supplying Wells with performance-enhancing drugs, and discussed how to avoid a positive test.
McMaster, 58, who lives in Ormiston, East Lothian, had also secretly recorded conversations with Ledingham, in which he apparently admitted supplying Wells with steroids, insisting: “Everybody knew Wells took drugs.”
Excerpts from a written transcript of what was said to be a recording of Ledingham was read out, but the original recording was not broadcast.
News of the allegations first emerged last week, with Wells firmly denying the claims. He said: “I could never have taken drugs. I just could not have lived with myself.
“Once again I find myself having to publicly deny these false and malicious rumours about doping. It’s been unexpected and has been difficult to deal with. It’s frustrating. If I didn’t defend myself it could severely damage my reputation.
“These allegations go back more than 20 years and have resurfaced at regular intervals. I strenuously denied any involvement in doping at the time and I will continue to do so. I can look back with substantial pride on my achievements.”
Wells declined the opportunity to be interviewed by Panorama for last night’s programme, but in a letter his lawyer said: “Allan Wells enjoys the highest of reputations … he has never failed a drug test [and] was subjected to the most rigorous and random drug-testing regime applied to any athlete at that time.”
Following transmission of the BBC Panorama programme, Catch Me If You Can, Allan Wells’ legal adviser Professor Peter Watson said: “For so-called investigative journalism to be based on gossip and hearsay from a dead, corrupt doctor and a bitter, disgraced athlete takes the BBC into worrying territory. This was not an editorial investigation. It was a lurid drama.
“Panorama failed to produce a single eye witness who had ever seen Allan Wells take illegal substances and as for the dramatic development in Allan’s physique, it is well known that he took on a punishing training regime which would increase any athlete’s build and weight.
“Mr McMaster’s bitterness permeated this entire programme and it is a sad tale he has tried to sell for decades, presumably to mask his own inadequacies. His jealousy towards Allan Wells is deeply troubling and is to be pitied.
“The BBC were challenged to produce their evidence so it could be considered and commented on. They refused. Why? This was drama not documentary.
“Allan Wells only comment to me after the programme was “McMaster is a loser.”