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Oz runner boycotts Delhi CWG over dispute with national athletics body
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Oz runner boycotts Delhi CWG over dispute with national athletics body

Australias champion 400 meter runner John Steffensen has said he will not participate in the Delhi Commonwealth Games in protest against the bullying, egotism and outdated approach of Athletics Australia.


Melbourne, Sept.9 : Australia's champion 400 meter runner John Steffensen has said he will not participate in the Delhi Commonwealth Games in protest against the "bullying, egotism and outdated approach" of Athletics Australia.

Addressing a news conference here, Steffensen said that for the past four years he had been trying to answers to his complaints, including why his room at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games was broken into and trashed. And I know some people will be saying 'OK, here goes John again'," Steffensen conceded.

The Daily Telegraph quoted him, as saying: "But this decision, it's going to cost me money, my reputation will take a hit and my chance of ever winning consecutive Commonwealth golds is gone. See, I love Australia. Love running for my country. But by sacrificing two years of my own preparations for these Games, I hope people understand how passionate I am about creating change for athletics in this country."

Apart from the room break in, Steffensen has sought answers for why his request for exemption from participation in the national championship was rejected, when he had to go in for major back surgery in January.

"Athletes are getting bullied, dictated to, copping decisions that are essentially jeopardising careers," he claimed.

He added: "I explained the surgeons' findings and they effectively said 'too bad, run'. As AA is funded by the taxpayer, Australians deserve to know it needs a complete overhaul."

After running the national final and finishing second, an angry Steffensen told journalists he should never have been made to compete.

Yet only now, four months on and six weeks out from the Games, AA is demanding he provide a written explanation. "It's like my life, my peak preparations are a game to them," he says.

Steffensen says AA broke its own confidentiality clause by leaking the case involving his abuse of a fellow athlete to the media - which caused him widespread condemnation. He has never received a response.

"All up I've endured four years of discrimination but, for the sake of my sport, I've kept running, kept winning medals," he says.

"Well, I can't do it anymore. I'm standing down so our next generation of athletes never endure this," he said.

AA chief executive Dallas O'Brien last night said he had not received an official withdrawal notice from Steffensen but would hold a hearing with the runner if he chose to boycott the Games.

ANI

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