Steffensen’s AVO bid jolts athletics
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.