SYDNEY — Australian track athlete John Steffensen has threatened to boycott the London Olympics after alleging racism because he was not selected individually to run the 400m and was given only a relay spot.
Steffensen, who is of aboriginal descent, accused Athletics Australia of racial vilification and said he would bypass the games in protest. The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist was upset after an individual 400 berth was granted to teenager Steve Solomon, who also achieved an Olympic qualifying time.
Steffensen was selected only as a member of Australia’s 4×400 relay team. He was a member of the Australian 4×400 relay teams that won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics and bronze at the 2009 world championships.
“I don’t think it helps the legitimacy of our sport or the selection criteria and I think it only makes our sport look stupid,” Steffensen said during an interview with Australia’s Channel 9 on Saturday.
“The rules and the goal posts are getting shifted.
Now they’re going to pick who they want to put in the team. I’ve put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams . . . you know it would help if I was a different colour. No, they can have athletics. I don’t need to do this anymore.”
Athletics Australia chief executive Dallas O’Brien denied the claims in comments published yesterday and said the Olympic team had a contingency plan if Steffensen followed through with his threat not to compete.
“John’s comments are regrettable . . . and I’ve asked him to settle down, have a breath and think about it,” O’Brien said. “Fortunately we’ve got a good relationship with John over the last 12 months and he’s been running really well and it’s just unfortunate that timing and injury hurt his chances.
“I still hope that John will be part of the relay.”
O’Brien said Athletics Australia would not take disciplinary action because of Steffensen’s comments.