ATHLETICS: THE chairman-elect of the Amateur Athletic Association has sprung to the defence of his sport following the Dwain Chambers drugs scandal.
George Bunner, who runs two Northwich sporting businesses and who will be installed as the AAA supremo this month, has championed the benefits of athletics, particularly for children, and founded the popular Sportshall Athletics programme which has become a global success.
Bunner, 71, admitted that Chambers' suspension from athletics for two years was 'extremely damaging for the sport'.
But he added: 'Personally, I think Chambers was naive, but we will never know for sure. The simple message is 'don't take anything you are not 100% sure about. Be vigilant at all times'.
'We have a lot of trouble getting publicity, but when there is a whiff of a drugs scandal it is all over the newspapers and on television.
'It is terribly sad for the sport, especially when we are trying to attract children and encourage them to be healthy with the increase in obesity.
'I would say that in Cheshire we are extremely grateful to the Chronicle for all the positive publicity they have given the sport over the years.'
Bunner, who is president of the Cheshire AAA, still believes track and field has a lot to offer children. He added: 'Athletics is a wonderful sport and the basis for all other sports. We have a good drugs-screening process, but the few who take drugs spoil it for everyone else.
'We have a wonderful ambassador for athletics in Paula Radcliffe who has her roots in Cheshire. She is a perfect role model, but she has to be extremely careful. I am sure there are people who would love to tarnish her reputation.'