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Cathal Lombard, IRE

28-year-old Irish distance runner Cathal Lombard is set to miss the 2004 Olympics after testing positive for blood-boosting drug EPO. The positive result is believed to have come from an out-of-competition test carried out in Switzerland on 11 July

Lombard had qualified to compete in the 5,000m and 10,000m in Athens. 

"The Irish sports council have come across an EPO positive for Cathal Lombard," said Irish Olympic press attaché Jack McGouran.

"He will be given 24 hours to come up with a response and if he doesn't do that he will not be in the Irish Olympic team."

Athletics Ireland said that a further statement would be made following the athlete's formal response to the alleged offence. Doping violations involving EPO usually lead to a two-year ban from the sport.

Lombard Admits to EPO USe

Cathal Lombard has admitted taking EPO.

"At the moment, subject to looking at all the information, I would be unlikely to contest the findings," Lombard told the Irish Examiner.

"I am saying this was the case and this is what I did and, hands up, I did it. There was nobody else involved at all."

Lombard claimed he took the drug because it was the only way to keep up with other athletes, but said he had been "naive" to think he could cover it up.

"I didn't set out to try and win medals or to make money. I just wanted to be as competitive as I could and have an equal chance with everyone else."

Lombard faces expulsion from the Irish Olympic team and a ban of up to two years.

"My eyes were really opened from conversations I had with people on the professional scene," added Lombard.

"I looked at some of the times being consistently run and I asked myself if this was possible naturally.

"The only logical conclusion I could reach was that, in a lot of cases, the answer was definitely 'no'."

"I realise now that most of the people I'm speaking about on the professional scene are operating on a very sophisticated basis, with proper medical back-up and advice on how not to get caught.

"In comparison I was merely dabbling and made no attempt to cover it up."

Lombard's dramatic improvement over the last 18 months was highlighted by a Irish 10,000 metre record in April when his time of 27:33.58 cut 13 seconds off Mark Carroll's previous mark.

The athlete will formally answer the charge at an Athletics Ireland hearing in Dublin on Tuesday 10th August 2004.

Banned runner Cathal Lombard has been asked to return a grant of over £12,000 he received from the Irish Sports Council earlier this year.

Sports Council chief executive John Treacy said on Wednesday that it had asked Lombard to return the money.

Treacy made the revelation during a meeting with officials from the Irish parliament's Committee on Arts and Sport and added that the Irish Sports Council would target any athlete it had a doubt about.

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