Coach told athletes to use drugs
By Scott Gullan
February 18, 2006
AUSTRALIAN athletes were ordered to take performance enhancing drugs by former national distance coach Said Aouita.
While Aouita, the former Morocco Olympic 5000m champion, was investigated over drug allegations in 2002, The Saturday Daily Telegraph can now reveal that one of the key witnesses in that inquiry had been intimidated into not speaking out.
Melissa Rollison, a medal prospect in the 3000m steeplechase at next month's Commonwealth Games, has lifted the lid on one of the darkest periods in the sport by revealing that Aouita urged her to take human growth hormone (HGH) while on a training camp in the US in 2003.
"He talked about it [drugs] every day," she said. "We had to go to America because that's where you get HGH and all this stuff.
"I said right at the start that I wasn't interested and he was like: 'Everyone else is on it so why wouldn't you want to?'.
"I said I wanted to make it the proper way, but he then tried to convince me that HGH wasn't illegal. He said it couldn't be tested and that because my hormones were so low it would just bring me up to the normal person."
Aouita's two-year stint as a national coach ended in 2004 amid controversy after Victorian athlete Mark Fountain, who was on the camp in Albuquerque with Rollison, raised the drug allegations in a letter sent to the Australian Sports Commission.
The Moroccan, arguably the greatest middle-distance runner in history, was later cleared after an investigation by the ASC, Athletics Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.
But Rollison said she now regretted not backing up Fountain and claimed she had been intimidated and manipulated into keeping quiet.
With the Athens Olympics on the horizon, the junior world record holder panicked when then national coach Keith Connor rang and said if the allegations were true she would be coming home.
"All I was thinking about was the Olympics and I stupidly said, 'No, it's not true'," Rollison said. "But everything he [Fountain] wrote in the report was true. I mean we all sat down and wrote it together.
"I was so stupid and it got him [Fountain] into a lot of trouble, but really he was the smart one who got out of there then. I then sort of convinced myself it was all lies and trusted Said again because he was just so good at convincing you, manipulating you."
Rollison, 22, maintains she didn't take any drugs and became so paranoid that she wouldn't eat or drink anything that she hadn't prepared herself during her time with Aouita.
"I was too scared to eat anything that I hadn't made myself and I kept my drinks in my room," she said.
Fountain was shunned by the authorities after his allegations - which included perceived favouritism by Aouita towards one of the squad members, Commonwealth Games 800m and 1500m runner Suzy Walsham of Sydney.
There is no suggestion that Connor or Walsham were involved with drug use or endorsed Aouita's alleged advocacy of drug use.
Fountain has maintained a low profile since until venturing home for the Commonwealth Games selection trials earlier this month where he qualified for the 1500m.
When contacted by The Saturday Daily Telegraph in Arkansas last night, Fountain said he was glad his story was now being supported by Rollison.
"I think everyone is well aware of what happened and if they want to tell their side of the story then that is great to see," he said.
Aouita fled Australia shortly after the Olympic trials in 2004 and has never returned.
He was recently appointed consultant to Aspire, the Academy for Sports Excellence, in Doha, Qatar.
The Daily Telegraph