Steffensen AVO on AA prez

Steffensen’s AVO bid jolts athletics
Danny Weidler
May 8, 2011

AUSTRALIAN athletics is in turmoil with leading runner John Steffensen pursuing an apprehended violence order against the sport’s president, Rob Fildes.

It is this column’s understanding that Steffensen has already filed a police report with Richmond Police in Melbourne following an incident at the Australian Championships on April 17. What prompted this is Fildes’s behaviour as Steffensen was readying to receive his bronze medal.

As he approached the podium Fildes is alleged to have called Steffensen out and, when he was ignored, asked him a number of times: ‘‘Can’t you speak?’’ He then allegedly grabbed Steffensen by a shoulder and twisted him around in a manner believed to have shocked the athlete.
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This all happened in front of International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper, other athletes and spectators. Steffensen has told friends he was shocked by the behaviour of the sport’s president and is believed to be wary about being in his presence in the future.

I called Steffensen for a comment regarding the matter and the normally helpful and gregarious 2006 Commonwealth Games champion offered: ‘‘Mate, I’ve got nothing to say about the matter, it’s a police matter and all I’m focused on at the moment is running and running as fast as I can.’’ Steffensen has always challenged the way Athletics Australia operates and has had an uncomfortable relationship with officials in the sport who he feels have done little to further his career.

According to AA insiders, Steffensen is being represented by a lawyer in the matter and there will be attempts to mediate the dispute, which is highly embarrassing for the struggling organisation. Attempts to contact Fildes and Athletics Australia yesterday were unsuccessful.

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john has been visibly upset by this assault

Yes but Fildes is AA’s fearless leader so he’s permitted to get physical with anybody in the sport. That’s his right, isn’t it. Fildes is pond scum. And the sport has died a painful death with him at the helm. The buck stops with Fildes. How’s he plan to bring the crowds back. Melbourne nationals was a sorry affair. No more than 1200 on the sunny Sunday and if AA claim any more than 800 turned up on either of the other two day/nights they will wake up with very long noses - all the better to smell the pond scum.

Things have been on a accelerated declined under Fildes, my biggest issue is the number of athletes who have been excluded from teams due to AA arbitrary stance on selection.

I have heard tons of stories, athletes complaining of being treated like school kids or worse by officials.

Up pops John, I wonder what motivates him. Usually they leave well before they get to his level.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

First time I’ve heard it called pond scum.

SPRINTER John Steffensen has made up with Athletics Australia’s head coach, Eric Hollingsworth, but remains at odds with its president, Rob Fildes.

Steffensen and Hollingsworth, who fell out over the sprinter’s initial non-selection for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, “cleared the air” in an informal meeting last week.

But Steffensen still has an application for an intervention order against the president of Athletics Australia.

“I am not going to pretend I’ve had a rosy relationship and then something has happened, it wasn’t a great shock,” Steffensen told the Sunday Herald Sun.

“It’s something I don’t want to happen (going to the police) but for some reason these things keep occurring and someone needs to take a serious look at it. I just want to get it sorted out. It is in the right hands --it is with the police – hopefully it will get sorted out.”

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Related Coverage

* Track star drops legal bombshell Adelaide Now, 5 days ago
* Steffensen seeking AVO against AA boss The Daily Telegraph, 6 days ago
* Steffensen to run in Stawell Gift Herald Sun, 18 Apr 2011
* Taylor heading to Sydney The Daily Telegraph, 11 Mar 2011
* Banned Steffensen returns to track Perth Now, 26 Feb 2011

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The legal action is related to a confrontation as Steffensen received a bronze medal at the recent national trials in Melbourne.

As he approached the podium, Fildes is alleged to have called for Steffensen but was initially ignored by the track star.

It is alleged Fildes then said, “Can’t you speak?”, before touching Steffensen on the shoulder. Fildes has denied the allegations.

The 400m sprinter has continually battled against the Athletics Australia hierarchy in recent years, mainly over selection issues.

“I don’t want any sympathy or crocodile tears,” Steffensen said. “It happened. It’s nothing new for me when it comes to my federation, and hopefully something can be done about it.”

"It’s not a trivial issue – it is a serious matter.

“I’ve been saying what I’ve been saying for a long time, now I just want to run.”

In December Athletics Australia slapped Steffensen with a three-month worldwide ban from competition for allegedly bringing the sport into disrepute.

That ban related to Steffensen refusing to travel to Delhi in a protest against the governing body.

Steffensen, a dual Games gold medallist at Melbourne in 2006, said he could no longer work with AA – an “egotistical and outdated” body.

Steffensen said he was trying to put the latest incident behind him and would spend the next month in the US training with renowned coach John Smith.

Steffensen’s goal is to help lift the men’s 4x400m relay to gold at the world championships in Korea in August and at London 2012.

He has been particularly buoyed by his recent meeting with Hollingsworth.

“Our relationship broke down and we had to come together and handle the situation,” Steffensen said.

“We realised there was a bigger picture that was the relay boys we had a chat one on one, nothing about Athletics Australia, just a chat between me and Eric.”