A FORMER Olympic athlete from Basingstoke has defied a life ban for doping offences by taking part in a competition.

Paul Edwards, a Commonwealth bronze medallist shotputter, of Willoughby Way, in Winklebury, took part in a meeting at Kingston, Surrey on April 18.

Despite being banned for life in 1998 after testing positive for anabolic steroids, Mr Edwards was granted a licence to compete in December after his club Walton AC applied to the ruling body UK Athletics.

Coming first with a throw of 14.81metres, Mr Edwards was immediately placed sixteenth in the national rankings on the UK Athletics website.

However in a statement issued to The Gazette, UK Athletics has now said that Mr Edwards had been allowed to compete because of an oversight and any loopholes would now be closed.

The statement said: “UKA and England Athletics have carried out checks via the licensing system and have therefore been able to confirm that the competitor was a banned athlete. Paul Edwards’ performance will not be recognised and his licence has now been marked and suspended.

“In light of these events, additional measures to prevent banned athletes obtaining a licence will be considered.”

The statement said Mr Edwards’ competition licence was secured by his club and volunteer officials at the meeting accepted his entry in good faith.

Mr Edwards, 50, whose personal best throw was 20.33 metres in 1991, has been battling to clear his name since the ban was imposed.

The father-of-two said: “If this was a mistake, how many more mistakes are they going to make? It is 10 years since I last threw competitively and it felt strange, but I enjoyed it.

“The point is they sent me the licence and I believed it was to allow me back in gently. They will not write a letter exonerating me because they are afraid of a claim for damages. They hope I won’t say anything and not bother competing.”

Mr Edwards and his supporters believe the cases of Spanish cyclist Inigo Landaluze and American sprinter LaTasha Jenkins back his long-standing claim for the ban on him to be lifted.

Both competitors failed dope testing, but were cleared because of simple errors in testing that bear similarities to Mr Edwards’ case. Mr Edwards said he will take further legal advice on his next step.

Greg Moon, a member of Kingston and Polytechnic, the club that organised the Kingston meeting, said it had been happy with Mr Edwards’ participation and did not believe his licence could have been issued in error.

A long-standing supporter of Mr Edwards, Mr Moon, who is an international athletics dope tester, said: “UK Athletics has shown incompetence throughout.”