Commonwealth Games 2010: Australia’s John Steffensen to boycott Delhi games
Australia’s reigning Commonwealth 400-metre champion John Steffensen will boycott next month’s New Delhi games because of a dispute with Athletics Australia, who he has accused of “bullying, egotism and an outdate approach.”
By Brendan Gallagher
Published: 10:35AM BST 09 Sep 2010
“This is the toughest decision I’ve ever had make,” said Steffensen, who won the gold medal in the and the 4x400m relay in Melbourne four years ago.
Steffensen, 28, says he is at odds with AA over what he claims are four years of unanswered complaints.
Even after a victory lap at the Melbourne Games, he returned to the athletes’ village and found his door had been kicked in and room trashed. He said AA officials assured him the matter would be dealt with, but he claims four years on nothing has happened. Steffensen also holds a grievance after his request to seek an exemption from the national championships earlier this year following major back surgery was denied.
“Athletes are getting bullied, dictated to, copping decisions that are essentially jeopardising careers. I explained the surgeons’ findings and they (AA) effectively said ‘too bad, run’.” Steffensen said he realised he was sacrificing two years of training by pulling out of the Delhi games team.
“This decision is going to cost me money, my reputation will take a hit and my chance of ever winning consecutive Commonwealth golds is gone. 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.”
AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien said he had not received any formal notification of Steffensen’s reported withdrawal.
“We would be disappointed if Steffensen, the defending 400m champion, were not available to represent Australia in the 400m and the 4x400m relay in New Delhi,” O’Brien said in a statement. O’Brien said his organisation had made numerous attempts to meet with Steffensen and repair their differences, but to no avail.
“We have made numerous attempts to arrange meetings with John to discuss his issues and his behaviour since April and have also offered to participate in an independent mediation. Despite this, John has refused all efforts to meet with Athletics Australia to discuss his situation.”