John Steffensen to boycott Delhi games

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.”

There have been reports in the media that John Steffensen intends to withdraw from the 2010 Commonwealth Games team. Athletics Australia has had no official confirmation of John’s withdrawal and would be disappointed if John, the defending 400m champion, were not available to represent Australia in the 400m and the 4x400m relay in New Delhi (IND).

Over recent months, there have been a number of unsubstantiated allegations raised in the media in relation to John and his relationship with Athletics Australia. I would like to clarify the organisation’s position on the following key issues:

The Australian Athletics Championships and Selection Trials:

In the lead-up to this year’s national championships and Commonwealth Games selection trials in Perth in April, John requested an exemption from competing in the trials due to injury.

Following this request, an exemption was granted by the Chairman of Selectors, however, in line with the selection policy, John was informed that this did not guarantee him an individualberth in the 400m on the Commonwealth Games team.

At the time, four athletes (including John) had already achieved the A-qualifying standard required to be considered for selection. Under the Commonwealth Games rules, Australia can select up to three athletes to represent Australia in individual events.

The selection policy states that the winner of the trial is automatically nominated to the team if they have an A-qualifying performance at that time (either in the trial or earlier in the period). If the winner is automatic and the second place getter also has an A-qualifier, they too are nominated automatically.

Given that four athletes had already achieved the A-qualifier in this event prior to the trial, it was likely that the third place-getter in the trial would also have an A-qualifier, and would therefore have a strong case to take the third and final position under the selectors’ discretion.

Considering this information John chose to compete at the national championships, where he placed second and was an automatic nomination.

Athletics Australia selection policies

All selection policies are available on the Athletics Australia website.

The selection policy applies to ALL athletes, and is considered the fairest process in which to select the team.

Disagreements with Athletics Australia

John is supported by Athletics Australia’s High Performance program and is a valued athlete. He has been a member of our world championships, Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams.

Following the selection trials, and on a number of occasions since, John has been critical of Athletics Australia through the media.

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 process. Despite this, John has refused all efforts to meet with Athletics Australia to discuss his situation. It is extremely difficult to resolve any issues with an athlete who refuses to communicate directly.

Why is he That injured in the 1st place?
If he is indeed that injured he needed surgery, i doubt he would be fast enough anyway to make the team.

Aus national champ, 2006. “4yrs ago”
400 metres:
2002 47.14
2003 46.07
2004 45.63
2005 45.31
2006 44.73
2007 44.82
2008 45.99
2009 45.28

200 metres:
2003 21.75
2004 21.11
2005 20.88
2006 DNC
2007 20.79/20.76w

2009 – John placed fifth over 400m at the Sydney Track Classic in February then bettered that result with a second placing at the World Athletics Tour Melbourne in March. At the national championships in March John finished second to Sean Wroe in the one-lap event, stopping the clock at 45.51.Taking his ’09 campaign overseas John placed fourth at the Osaka Grand Prix behind Athens gold medallist and reigning world champion Jeremy Wariner (44.69) of the USA. In July John recorded his best time in two years when he clocked 45.28 in Rome.

I’m with Steffensen - AA got it wrong

by Nick Walshaw

The Daily Telegraph September 10, 2010 12:00AM
OLYMPIC hero Matt Shirvington has backed the Commonwealth Games boycott of John Steffensen - convinced Athletics Australia must make significant changes before again becoming a “super power” in track and field.
Once the fastest man in Australia over 100m, Shirvington says Steffensen is right to demand changes of a scheduling program that had the 400m runner competing only 13 weeks after major back surgery to secure his place in the Games team.

Yet AA chief executive Dallas O’Brien - whose organisation yesterday released a press release to counter the Steffensen claims - described any potential boycott by the Sydneysider as “a defence for not getting his way”.

“I’ve been in John’s position and understand where he’s coming from,” Shirvington told The Daily Telegraph last night. "There needs to be more flexibility in scheduling, more understanding … especially for senior athletes in the twilight of their careers who find it extremely hard to peak twice in the same year.

"If Australia wants to be a super power again we need change. Obviously AA still needs its domestic season, but when you hold your national championships in April, select one athlete for each event, not three. That way the other two places can be decided four to six weeks out from the major events like the Olympics.

“We did it before Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and Australia won a bagful of medals.”

As revealed exclusively by The Daily Telegraph, Steffensen is boycotting the Delhi Games because of an “egotistical and outdated” AA. The reigning Commonwealth 400m champion wants a complete overhaul of the governing body, resolution to four years of unanswered complaints and asks why it took five months for AA to demand he answer for angry media comments made after the championships in April.

Yet O’Brien insists AA has “bent over backwards” for Steffensen - making numerous attempts to arrange meetings with the runner while also agreeing to participate in an independent mediation process.

But The Daily Telegraph has obtained an email sent from AA to Steffensen in August stating: “We don’t believe a mediator is necessary”.

O’Brien added the Olympic silver medallist had been granted an exemption from the nationals, but couldn’t be guaranteed a 400m Games spot with three other Australian runners also boasting an A-qualifying time.

“But I was never asking to be guaranteed a spot at the Games,” Steffensen countered yesterday.

"I was asking for a spot to be left open, not for me but for the fastest 400m athlete six weeks out from the Games.

"AA can make this about me but whether I’m saying it or Joe Bloggs is saying it, there are issues that need to be addressed.

“Take me out of it.”

and there we have it. Faults or not you can’t work to fix things if people won’t engage.


Yet O’Brien insists AA has “bent over backwards” for Steffensen - making numerous attempts to arrange meetings with the runner while also agreeing to participate in an independent mediation process.

But The Daily Telegraph has obtained an email sent from AA to Steffensen in August stating: “We don’t believe a mediator is necessary”.

There seems to be a lot of “he said” “she said” at the moment.
Can someone else now be elected for the individual spot to replace steffenson? or is it too late now

Something else is going on…

Omg I have to laugh at all this nonsense first of all its absolutely ridiculous that an individual can lash out in public at the same organisation that provides considerable financial support to them through travel, accomodation and prize money. Airing this stuff in public only causes harm for the sport. Athletes in Australia are very fortunate to be supported through their development. They just need to go to some of the other countries to see what goes on to see just how good they have it.

The reality of the situation in Australia is that the qualification standard allows for the first two to be automatic at the trials assumming the winner has an A.

Australia has always had and does have good depth in the 400m. If you are automatic then you are at the mercy of the 3rd discressionary position…plain and simple. It appears from the various report sin teh print media that he was told that yes he could have a medical pass alleviating him from competing at the Nationals but had to realise that with the depth the selectors could decide to go with 3 athletes thus shutting any runner out whom didn’t compete. Thats what a discretionary 3rd position is…its discretionary…if you want to risk it then you do so.

Funny that a guy who lives and trains in the USA carries on with this nonsense because if he was a USA athlete he would have to run under the rule of you are top 3 at the nationals or there is no discretion.

How many times have we seen great athletes miss individual spots because of injury or the cut throat nature of the US trials. One only just needs to look at the potential line up for the Jamaican trials next year in the mens 100m for us to see that an athlete who runs 9.8 could miss the team…

This brings us to the self impossed boycott to raise an issue…please anyone in shape who has a ‘real’ point to prove goes and runs…and wins.

Australia has plenty of good athletes who go about their job and succeed…Hooker, Sally and Dani. They don’t winge, complain or bite the hands that feeds them. Performance has always been king…no one gets a free pass through.

Maybe a sit down and a good chat with some of Australia’s greatest 400m runners like Cathy Freeman and Darren Clark who were humble, always supported the domestic season and didn’t mind competing out of shape and losing domestically before going O/S and mixing it with the best might help this athlete with talent achieve his full potential.

I hope this is sorted out quickly because it does no good for both the individual and athlete to be bickering when there are so many positive stories out there waiting to be published…I want to hear about the real stories in athletics the ones that make you sit back and go ‘wow’ thats why this sport is great…

Steffensen backed on Comm Games pullout Caris Bizzaca
September 10, 2010 - 5:24PM


Australia’s world indoor long jump champion Fabrice Lapierre said he respected the decision of defending 400 metre winner John Steffensen to pull out the Commonwealth Games in protest of Athletics Australia (AA).

Steffensen will skip the Games after perceived mistreatment by AA, a body he called “egotistical and outdated”.

His major gripe was that he did not gain automatic selection for Delhi.

Lapierre, the long jump gold medal favourite in India, said Steffensen was entitled to his position.

“I’m pretty good friends with John and he’s knows what’s best for him, so if that’s what he wants to do, then that’s good,” Lapierre said.

“That’s to prove his own point.”

Lapierre, who has jumped a wind assisted 8.79m, is eyeing off the top of the podium in Delhi and to better the national record of 8.49m set by Jai Taurima at the Sydney Olympics.

“I’m pretty confident I can do it,” he said.

Meanwhile discus world champion Dani Samuels says the prospect of winning gold has kept her motivated throughout a long year.

The 22-year-old became the youngest discus world champion in Berlin last August, throwing a personal best of 65.44m in the final.

“The major goal is to win a gold medal in London in 2012 and so each year there’s a major championship for us and to win all of them is part of the goal and part of the dream,” Samuels said.

Samuels added she was well on track with her training and is consistently reaching marks over 62m.

Unlike some other athletes who’ll be quickly in and out of Delhi for their events, Samuels will be there for just over two weeks.

“There’s a lot of preparations being put in place in regards to hygiene, and safety and protecting yourself from things like Dengue Fever so I’m planning on packing a big mozzie net in my bag,” Samuels said.

“There’s always going to be hazards whatever country you go to, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Depending on the schedule, Samuels said she hopes to get out to see some other events during the Games.

"I come from a basketball background so I just love watching them, even the netballers as well (and) the swimming," she said.

“I’ll get out and try and see as much as I can.”

© 2010 AAP

Basketball is not a sport in the Delhi Games… but moving right along

Search for: Weather: Melbourne 9°C - 16°C . Few showers.

Running off at the mouth
Ron Reed From: Herald Sun September 10, 2010 8:31PM

Herb Elliott after his gold medal win in the 1500m at the Rome Olympics in 1960. Source: Herald Sun

IT WENT largely unacknowledged, but this week’s 50th anniversary of Herb Elliott’s mighty win in the 1500m at the Rome Olympics was a reminder that Australian track and field deserves more respect than it sometimes gets.

Next week’s 10th anniversary of the Sydney Games, which will focus on Cathy Freeman’s starring role on and off the track, will be another one.

The sport has thrown up no more admirable figures, although John Landy, Betty Cuthbert, Marjorie Jackson, Raelene Boyle, Rob de Castella, Steve Moneghetti, Ralph Doubell and others have also helped form a high-quality honour roll.

It’s not just the glow of old glory, either - the good times seem to be coming back.

The Beijing Olympics and last year’s world championships were pleasingly successful and that momentum should continue at the Commonwealth Games, where athletics is one sport that offers a decent challenge.

With 20 athletes ranked in the top 20 in the world - including authentic stars in pole vaulter Steve Hooker, hurdler Sally Pearson and discus thrower Dani Samuels - the sport is in a good place, especially after getting more than $5.5 million from the Sports Commission last week.

Then along came a dark cloud. Outspoken 400m specialist John Steffensen, mounted on his high horse as usual, announced he would boycott the Games because Athletics Australia had made life difficult for him.

The temptation is to ignore Steffensen - plenty of competitors are more deserving of the limited media space available to athletics - but his story is actually a salient lesson in how not to go about it.

With a striking appearance, a showman’s personality, a certain gift of the gab and enough talent to win a relay silver medal at the Olympics and an individual gold at the Commonwealth Games in one of the most demanding events, Steffensen had all the makings of a star.

He should have been very good for a sport always in need of headline acts.

Sadly, though, he has never seemed to grasp a couple of other essentials, such as professionalism and respect for authority.

Despite the media running with the story yesterday, he still hadn’t bothered to inform AA of his plans officially.

Two years ago he beat a charge of verbally abusing Olympic champion Glynis Nunn-Cearns, a national selector, on a technicality and now he refers to Athletics Australia as “egotistical and outdated”.

As frustrated and angry as some heavies are, a senior source denied Steffensen was in danger of being charged with bringing the sport into disrepute.

But there is not much sympathy, either, among other athletes or sports fans who had their say on the internet.

Steffensen would command more credibility if he turned up and let his feet do the talking, not his mouth.

But perhaps part of the problem is that, having not raced competitively since April, he doesn’t want to put himself on the line.

Whatever the truth of that, it’s a futile way to protest.

Moneghetti, chief of the Games team, got it right: “Is this going to change the system? No chance.”

WITHOUT comment, we offer this related result from a 400m race in Italy the other night: Australia’s one-lappers in Delhi will include Ben Offereins, Joel Milburn and Kevin Moore. Oscar Pistorius, the South African disabled athlete who has no feet, beat two of them and failed by 1/100th of a second to claim all three.

Why would you really care what A.a. has to say if ur in shape? At the end of the day, most run for themselves and not their country. But its nice to think and nice to hear that you ran for gold only for Australia. Or wherever.
Therefore John has serious doubts over his own ability n is looking for somebody to blame.

Why would you really care what A.a. has to say if ur in shape? At the end of the day, most run for themselves and not their country. But its nice to think and nice to hear that you ran for gold only for Australia. Or wherever.
Therefore John has serious doubts over his own ability n is looking for somebody to blame.

Without commenting on John’s actions, do these results not confirm his complaints regarding the outdatedness of AA? Here are three athletes that over six months ago when the CG team was selected were in, or close to, PB shape. Now that we are on the eve of the Games, they are no where near the kind of form they have proven they are capable of. No doubt there will be those who complain that they should be able to do back to back seasons year in, year out as administrations have claimed every year since I can remember, but there is simply no evidence to support this. I understand AA faces competing demands regarding international and domestic performance, but domestic interest will not be piqued without international performances.

It needs to be accepted that amature sporting events in Australia cannot command the same level of excitement they did prior to 2000 simply by being an Olympic event and so a new approach needs to be taken. A long term strategy that actually balances AA’s conflicting needs must be identified otherwise athletics will simply continue to fade into obscurity, disappearing from the public consciousness without so much as a whimper.

Only the individual coaches and athletes know how they have planned their strategy. Ben has had a break through season and will learn I am sure from this. He has been at his best for quite a while and its not surprising to see him drop off after such a long season. This is not an uncommon occurrence to see athletes struggle to double peak in a breakout season. I am sure his coach and he have already begun to plan and learn from this season. Joel has been off the boil for a while and again no doubt his caoch and he are scratching their heads trying to find a solution and young Kevin well he is a junior on the rise and this will be a great opportunity for him to learn and grow from.

There issue is will always be athletes who can and can’t perform O/S.The great ones have the fortunate ability to not have to fully taper domestically but hey thats reality. You can and will never be able to satisfy everyone. Quite often those just on the cusp of being very good have a small winge when maybe they just can’t take that next step to be world class. They look for reasons to possibly appease there mind with where they would like to be and where they actually are.

This isn’t an Australian isolated issue. There are many countries who are asked to double peak with quite large times in between. In addition there are other sports in Australia also asked to do this…and they do so with not teh same fuss. The current system will never suit everyone just as a different system such as having trials closer to the major world event suit all.

AA has rewarded the best athletes by giving them an automatic pass to the CWG if they finished top 8 at last years world. This seems pretty fair. We are talking about elite level athletics here not rewards for all. I think the system couldn’t offer anymore chances then the current one which gives athletes many opportunities to qualify. Rest assured alternative selection ploicies would also bring up issues. Maybe if anything the one change that could occur is a clearer grasp of the discretionary 3rd spots might help alleviate some angst. But then there would always be some who won’t be satisfied.

The only thing John Steffensen complained about in the original article that made sense to me was that he was essentially calling either for selection policy options of either pre-selection or a selection trial closer to the major meet of the year.

As much as I respect Steff as an athlete, he really has done nothing on the international stage as an individual since he won the Commonwealth 400m title in Melbourne four years ago - in fact 4-1/2yrs ago now. Yes he has won relay medals, but so have a handful of his teammates. And two of those are Beijing Olympic inidvidual 400m semi-finalists - Joel Milburn and Sean Wroe.

Should either of them have been pre-selected? What about another relay medallist Ben Offereins, who ran sub-45 and won the national title?

Or should everyone in line for the national team have been brought home to Australia to compete in a selection trial? Who pays for that? AA had no naming rights sponsor (and still don’t) and no money in reserve until last week when the ASC handed over a windfall $5.5m. Too late for trials now.

Or should the AA selectors have waited until deadline - perhaps August 16 - and selected athletes based on their best form throughout the year and especially up until the cut-off date? So AA would be opting for a policy of “inclusion” rather than “exclusion”.

Those who can recall the 1992 Barcelona Olympic season will beg AA never again to select on European form. It was a disaster for many very good athletes who chased times and marks often in vain in poor weather across Europe while they’re fitness base gradually eroded.

By the time athletes reached Barcelona, many results were disappointing and many fine athletes still missed the cut. Australia won a pair of bronze medals from Tim Forsyth and Daniela Costian.

In trying to prove selection with a stunning mark deep into the European season, many athletes just eventually ran out of legs. The classic example was Mark Garner who ran 45.05 (around there) to reach the 1991 world championships 400m final and then in Barcelona 12 months later using a different selection system he ran slower than Kevin Young did in winning the 400m Hurdles!

Great reply Kitkat1 and some good insight in to previous selection policies. I wonder how many athletes who do complain even know the history of such thing sin their own sport. They make assumptions that everyone who is running a sport doesn’t have the same passion as them and isn’t interested in the well being of the athletes. The thing is they have to do stuff that is best for all the athletes not every individual.

agree and disagree with the chasing times/results.

A. I believe a trial within 2mths from the meet would benefit all (Athletes have a focus point to run a time or perform to get selected). If an athlete has the ability to run an ‘A’ qualifying time before the trial then they wouldn’t need to go chasing a time all around europe.

B. Athletes get hot and cold. Many Australian athletes race well domestically and achieve a qualifying time. The problem is then hinged around the contiki tours presented to them from AA/MP. They are told they must perfom at each designated meet eg domestic season, then in Osaka/Japan meets in May then june/july meets. At the end of the day you can not sharpen a needle any more, all the happens is that it loses its edge.

C. Do AA have village entry standards anymore? Perhaps a 'B; Standard 6-8wks out and re-achive an ‘A’ standard before the close of entries.

Years ago AA had their own DOUBLE A standard. Maybe this can be brought back in. IF an athletle achieves this and finishes top 3 then they are automatic (no disputes from athletes/coaches/AA/selectors).

There will always be disputes from people who can only see things through their own prism.

If Trials are held, then either Everyone competes or you have to go through some kind of Pre-Selection and those Pre-Selected don’t have to return for the Trials.

But who to Pre-Select? And when do you let them know they are on the team?

And how many athletes are going to thank you for dragging them home from the European circuit to compete in the Aussie winter against skinny fields in all likelihood. And while they are acclimatising from the trip home and competing in their trials, they are missing big meets in Europe.

Trials will work if: A) the Major meet is in your own Country and you have to return anyway.
B) The Major meet in at least in approximately the same Time Zone (which is why AA put on Trials - as well as “challenges” - remember Nova v that girl from Adelaide for an individual spot in the 100m? - in Darwin before the Kuala Lumpur Comm Games in 98);
C) Or if Europe stops for an extended period during which there is no comp in Europe due either to something like the Soccer World Cup (when aths meets cannot get TV, therefore cannot get sponsors, therefore cannot pay athletes, therefore suspend their activities until the way is clear).