Athletics has found itself firmly wedged between a rock and a hard place. And swimming just cannot make its mind up about the Chinese. The use, and abuse, of drugs is an issue that won't go away. The International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), and its dictatorial boss, Primo Nebiolo, are on an anti-drugs crusade, but the sport's white knights seem to have been caught in the crossfire. With the media circus and corporate caravan in Seville for the World Championships, there was no worse time for it to emerge that Jamaican jewel Merlene Ottey had failed a drug test. The mere suggestion that the graceful Ottey, winner of a record 14 medals at the World Championships, could be flawed has turned athletics back to that dark day in Seoul when newly crowned Olympic champion Ben Johnson was exposed as a cheat. Ottey has said it is not so, as have her fellow athletes and those who have been with her on the circuit for the past 17 years. The drug in question is nandrolone, a synthetic derivative of testosterone which boosts power, stamina and aggression - not words normally associated with the loose-limbed Ottey. Nandrolone is also the drug which has tripped up personalities in several sports over the past year - former Olympic champion Linford Christie, Scottish sprinter Dougie Walker, tennis ace Petr Korda, French footballer Christophe Dugarry and his compatriot and judo star Djamel Bouras, have all stood accused. Ottey and Christie have denied taking the substance, Walker was cleared by the United Kingdom athletics authorities but now faces an IAAF probe and Korda was forced into retirement because of the publicity. Drug experts with the IAAF have conceded that it's possible that nandrolone can find its way into the bloodstream without the knowledge of the athletes. Food supplements, which are not clearly labelled, could be the cause of the drug test failures. There again, they may not be but with so much mud flying about some of it is bound to stick to Ottey, Christie and Walker. They could well be innocent victims of a testing regimen which has to be loophole-free if it is to be seen as a credible deterrent to the drug cheats. There are countless numbers of athletes still willing to risk their lives by taking steroids and the net which the IAAF has developed to catch the big fish does not let the tiddlers swim through. Like athletics, swimming hungers to be drug free but a number of competitors and coaches tend to put on the blinkers when discussing the problem. China has a dismal drug record in the sport but, with steps being taken to clean up its act, does not deserve some of the treatment it receives. The Chinese were banned from the 1995 Pan Pacific Championships after seven of their squad failed dope tests at the 1994 Asian Games. The United States also wanted them to be excluded from the on-going Pan Pacs in Sydney but were outvoted. So what happened? China sent only five swimmers and the lack of competitors was dubbed 'suspicious' by some swimmers, including American world champion Jenny Thompson. It seems the Chinese just cannot win. The Yanks did not want them there in the first place and when the majority of the top names stay away, it's suggested they have something to hide. Come off it, Jenny.