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Runners Face Blood Tests

April 14, 2002|From Associated Press

LONDON — The London Marathon sets itself apart today, and not just for its powerful field or the possibility of a world record.

It will become the first major marathon to conduct blood tests on all elite entrants.

"It's a wonderful thing," said long-distance star Haile Gebrselassie, who will run in his first marathon since he was 15. "That's what I wanted. That's really important--to find the honest athlete, the ones who do good training."

Race director Dave Bedford said he has the support of all athletes and agents.

If an initial drug test comes back positive, Bedford said, the runner would be allowed to compete. The runner would be disqualified only if a second sample also was positive.

All prize and appearance money would be forfeited in a disqualification.

Gebrselassie is perhaps the greatest distance runner ever, with 15 world records, two Olympic gold medals and four world titles at 10,000 meters.

Now the 28-year-old Ethiopian embarks on something new. He has promised to go after the marathon record of 2 hours 5 minutes 42 seconds held by Moroccan-born American Khalid Khannouchi. Khannouchi is in the field, as are a dozen of the best marathoners.

Gebrselassie intends to run the first half in 1:02:30, which would put him on a pace of 2:04:49 for the 26.2 miles.

If Gebrselassie sets the world mark, he will be the first to do it in London since 1965, when Morio Shigematsu ran 2:12:00.

But to do so, Gebrselassie will have to outrun Kenya's Paul Tergat, the world-record holder in the half-marathon (59:17), Khannouchi and defending champion Abdelkader El Mouaziz of Morocco (2:07:11 personal best), among others.

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