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No plans to ban Sierra Leone

Written by: Staff

MELBOURNE, Mar 25 (Reuters) The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has ruled out any ban on Sierra Leone competing at future Games after half their team disappeared in Melbourne.

Police and Australian immigration officials have been searching for 11 athletes from the war-ravaged African country who have gone missing from the village.

Another 20 Sierra Leone athletes stayed in England after the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester but CGF president Mike Fennell said there were no plans to ban the country from competing at the next Games in New Delhi in 2010.

''We've had separate discussions with various officials and banning is not on our agenda at all,'' Fennell told a news conference today.

''We recognise that in a number of countries there are considerable hardships and therefore, whether athletes or other citizens, they will go to other countries where they think they will be better off.

''The management and the administrators in Sierra Leone are very embarrassed over this, they take it very seriously and in fact they will be taking further measures to prevent a re-occurrence of this.'' Fennell also dismissed concerns about widespread doping in India after two weightlifters failed drug tests in Melbourne.

Raju Edwin and Tajinder Singh were due to face the Court of Arbitration for Sport after testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid stanozolol.

The results are just the latest in a series of doping scandals involving Indian weightlifters in the past four years but Fennell said he was not concerned about more doping problems in New Delhi.

''It's a very large country, over a billion people, and perhaps there will be people who are perhaps not as knowledgeable about the drug situation and the doping situation, and there will be instances,'' he said.

''But we are satisfied that the organisers, and certainly with our responsibility for the whole situation, will ensure the drug testing will not be any less severe for India than it was here.'' Meanwhile, Australian officials have ruled out bidding for the Games again for at least another 20 years.

Australia's Commonwealth Games chief executive Perry Crosswhite said that after hosting the Olympics in 2000 and the Commonwealth Games this year, Australia would have to go to the back of the queue.

''With the Commonwealth Games, it would at least be 20 years, if not longer,'' Crosswhite said.

''And we're probably talking 20 to 40 years for an Olympics.

You're now getting 10 to 12 countries putting the hands up to bid.'' REUTERS PM PM1132

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