SEAN KELLY failed two drug tests during his cycling career, though his image has remained untarnished, probably because his offences pre-dated Ben Johnson's positive test in Seoul and the awakening of the public's consciousness of the drugs in sport problem.He tested positive for the banned drug Stimul after the Paris-Brussels Classic in 1984 and for the drug codeine after the Tour of the Basque Country in 1988.

Kelly put his second failed test down to a cough syrup he claimed to have taken, escaped without a ban but was warned that he faced a one-month suspension if he tested positive again.But it was his first doping offence that returned to haunt him last summer.

Kelly had always claimed that there were "irregularities" surrounding his 1984 test, which resulted in a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs and a one-month suspension.

Willy Voet, the masseur with the Festina team whose arrest for drug-trafficking brought the 1998 Tour de France into disgrace, revealed 'the truth' in his memoirs.Ten days before the Paris-Brussels race, he claimed, Kelly took the banned drug ephedrine to combat a bout of bronchitis.The books alleges: "At the end of the race. . . the Irishman had to be put to the (dope) test.Nothing of great concern.We had hidden a bottle filled with the urine of a willing mechanic in the cyclist's shorts. . .A few days later, Kelly received a letter from the international federation, informing him that he had tested positive. . .The Irishman was flabbergasted. I investigated the matter and the guilty party was soon unveiled: to keep awake behind the wheel of his truck, the mechanic with the short memory had loaded himself a little." Voet also alleged that Kelly was regularly involved in doping and took drugs the day he claimed the yellow jersey for the first and only time in the Tour de France in 1983.Kelly refused to comment on the allegations last year and continues to maintain his silence.

Paul Howard