Aussie Swimmers Stand By Beleaguered Touretski

CANBERRA, April 11. OLYMPIC gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Klim today said he was shattered by the charge laid against his coach Gennadi Touretski for alleged possession of banned anabolic steroids.

Other members of the 19-strong Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) swim team said Touretski was like a father figure and vowed to stick by him.

The Russian-born swim coach has been suspended on full pay from coaching at the AIS and will face Canberra Magistrates Court tomorrow charged with possession of the anabolic steroid, Stanozolol. Touretski has declared his innocence.

Klim, who won gold at the Sydney Olympics under Touretski's guidance, said his coach seemed disappointed when he spoke to him two days ago.

"I was shocked myself as well," Klim told a packed media conference beside the AIS pool. "(Drug possession would be) totally out of character.

"Obviously it's been very tough for me over the past couple of days as you can imagine. I'm not used to this kind of scrutiny, because I've … been innocent -I've never turned in a positive drug test. And I don't have to prove my innocence in any of these allegations."

The Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA) released Klim's drug test history, revealing it had tested the high-profile swimmer 47 times in his career.

Klim said his training partner, four-time Russian gold medalist Alexander Popov, was too upset to train this morning. "Obviously he's shattered by what's happened as well," he said.

Popov did not talk to the media but issued a statement, saying he had never had cause to question his coach during their 11-year partnership. "I have had an association both socially and professionally with Gennadi for 11 years and I have never had any need to question his credibility or his ethics," Popov said in a statement.

Klim, flanked by the rest of the AIS swim squad, read a statement to the press conference reiterating the team's tough anti-drugs stance.

"Whatever the circumstances of the last days, and whatever the outcome of the future, we assert again our total opposition to drug-taking, our total commitment to drug-free sport and our total commitment to continuing in the future as we have in the past," the statement said.

Another of Touretski's charges, Sarah Ryan, said the coach was like a father figure. "It is quite hard, I suppose, but I have no problems training with other coaches at the AIS," she told journalists.

Veteran swimmer Petria Thomas said the swimmers were going to get on with the job of preparing for the World Championships, to be held in Japan in July.

"Of course we feel for Gennadi, he's part of the AIS family and we're going to stick by him as much as we can until we find out exactly what's going on," she said.

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