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Athletics: Lewis backs controversial choice of Arbeit in defence of career move.

Byline: Carl Markham

Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis has defended her decision to utilise controversial German coach Ekkart Arbeit, saying she is merely interested in furthering her career.

The Birchfield Harrier has come under fire for linking up with Arbeit, who played a part in the huge success of East Germany's sporting achievements and admitted drugs were used to enhance athletes' performances.

However, Lewis says she has every right to choose whomever she wishes to coach her and the only thing which concerns her is personal success.

Lewis said: 'The information which is circulating (about Arbeit) is very much one-sided and it was 14 or 15 years ago now and what we are doing now is now.

'I would like to think we can forgive and forget. Ekkart has made a statement with regards to his past and that is it. I am just trying to take my career forward.

'But it does become hard and I feel this brings me down and it puts speculation on my character.

'I am working with this man for the sole purpose of forwarding my career. What do people want? Do they want him to be imprisoned or hang from the rafters? He is a free man, he is free to coach.

'We are not breaking any rules on that front so let's just get on and let the athlete and coach work together. I have earned the right to choose how to execute my career. I am happy that most of the British public still believe in me.

'I will keep fighting and hopefully can deliver something in Athens.'

Meanwhile, Lewis will confirm in the next few weeks whether she will take part in the world championships in Paris next month.

The 30-year-old easily reached the qualifying standard of 6,105 points when second in last weekend's European Cup of Combined Events.

Lewis, who scored a world-class 6,682 points in Tallinn to help the British women return to the Super League next year, issued a joint statement yesterday with coach Frank Dick. The statement said: 'All things being well we are trying to prepare for Paris but will know for sure in the coming weeks given the right response to training.'

Tallinn was the first heptathlon in which Lewis had competed since winning the Olympic title in Sydney three years ago.

Lewis says the most important ambition of her remaining career is to win the gold medal again in Athens next year.

She has two world silver medals, from the 1997 and 1999 championships, injuries forcing her to withdraw at the last moment from Edmonton two years ago.

Paris would almost certainly be her last chance to win the title but, at the same time, everything is focused on success in 2004.

CAPTION(S):

Denis Lewis chats with her coach Ekkart Arbeit who admitted drugs-enhanced East German performances in the 1980s
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 12, 2003
Words:480
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