Willis Snr not surprised at drugs result

Nick Willis wants to play it down but his father has expressed no surprise at news the New Zealand runner is set to have his Olympic 1500m medal upgraded to silver.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) overnight identified 1500m gold medallist Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain as one of six Beijing athletes to test positive for banned drugs after re-testing of samples.

Following his "A" positive test result, Ramzi has a test for a B sample in France on June 8 and will face an IOC hearing the same day.

If Ramzi tests positive again and is stripped of his victory, Asbel Kipruto Kiprop of Kenya stands to be upgraded from silver to gold, with Willis promoted with fourth-place finisher Mehdi Baala of France, who would claim bronze.

Willis didn't want to comment when contacted by today in the United States but said he may be prepared to speak tomorrow after consulting his manager.

Father Richard Willis wasn't surprised at his son's attitude, as athletes were always careful about what they said in regard to drug testing, particularly with Ramzi's status yet to be confirmed.

He was unsure what his son's attitude would be towards an upgrade.

"He certainly won't be unhappy... I guess it's one better isn't it?" he said.

"Then again, the difference between bronze and silver isn't that great...and there's the circumstances of it."

He was less reticent when asked to comment on the Morocco-born Ramzi, who he had concerns about from the moment he saw him scorch away to win his heat at the Bird's Nest Stadium.

"If Ramzi is confirmed as being a drug cheat, I have to say it wouldn't surprise me," Richard Willis said.

"Normally the great champions try to conserve energy in heats so you come down the home straight and you see where you are and slow down.

"This guy sprinted for 300m, won his heat by 20m and just outside the Olympic record.

"I remember turning to my oldest son (Steve) and saying `goodness gracious, that's a weird way to run a heat'.

"You have to give guys the benefit of the doubt but that was unusual at an Olympics."

Willis Snr pointed to a prominent athletics website, letsrun.com, where more than 60 percent of readers had voted Ramzi as the most likely candidate when the IOC announced an unnamed men's athletics gold medallist had tested positive 24 hours earlier.

"It's sad for the sport because the public becomes a bit more suspicious of track and field," he said.

"On the other hand, it shows that the testing is working.

"The key to it has been this retrospective testing. The fact that they can keep a sample for eight years and the chemists aren't as far ahead of the testers as they were."

Not many runners in recent years were going under the "holy grail" time for 1500m runners of three minutes 30 seconds, Richard Willis said, as was commonplace five-10 years ago.

"I'm convinced in my mind that Nick would not have won a medal at the Olympics had it been eight years ago because there were so many people that were cheating."

Meanwhile, New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general Barry Maister today said it was almost a foregone conclusion Ramzi would test positive to a B sample.

"I would expect that within a week we will be notified by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that Nick is eligible for the silver," he told Radio New Zealand.

Maister said he felt sorry for Willis if it transpired that he had been cheated initially out of silver, which would mean he missed being able to step up the celebrations immediately after his run.

"When I think of these athletes who win by cheating, they get a lot of kudos and probably a lot of sponsorship and accolade that comes with it, and you can't ever take that back.

"So the cheats do momentarily prosper in this system. All we can say is that we believe Nick is a genuine champion and we are mighty proud of his bronze - and now his silver."

IOC regulations have changed in respect to medal upgrades.

New Zealand cyclist Bruce Biddle finished fourth in the road race at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, behind third-placed Spaniard Jaime Huelamo, who was subsequently disqualified for failing a drug test.

Biddle never received a bronze medal as he hadn't been tested for drugs at Munich.

-NZPA