Athletics: Christie and Gunnell turn their attention to the track: British trio are given the 'yellow card' by the IAAF but are free to run in tonight's London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace

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The Independent Online
TONIGHT'S TSB Games at Crystal Palace will, as expected, feature the talents of Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and John Regis.

The British trio have been 'strongly warned' as to their conduct by the International Amateur Athletic Federation following a complaint by the promoter of Tuesday's grand prix in Stockholm, Rajne Soderberg, that they had dropped out of his meeting at short

notice. But the IAAF has turned down Soderberg's request to invoke the seven-day enforced rest which their code of conduct recommends for athletes who drop out from meetings with injuries.

Istvan Gyulai, the IAAF general secretary, said yesterday: 'The athletes have been strongly warned but not banned. There was no written contract between promoter and athletes so a ban could not be enforced. In soccer terms we have given the athletes a yellow card, not a red.'

The question remains: what for? Gunnell and Regis produced medical evidence on the day before the Stockholm meeting which satisfied the BAF that they had injuries to back and knee respectively. Athletes drop in and out of races in Europe all the time without being called to task. As for Christie, Stockholm was never on his programme and he reiterated last Friday that he did not intend to compete.

Tony Ward, the BAF's spokesman, suggested that the matter would be discussed at Saturday's BAF management board meeting. The board will need to consider the role played in this affair by the agent handling overseas racing for Christie, Gunnell and Regis - the sacked BAF promotions officer, Andy Norman, who ran the Crystal Palace meeting for so many years.

Such distraction is the last thing required by the head of the BAF promotions unit, Ian Stewart, who has put together an field which holds out the prospect of memorable races at 100 metres, where Christie meets the world silver medallist, Andre Cason, and 400m, where Roger Black faces the man who beat him to the 1991 world title, Antonio Pettigrew, as well as the world record holder, Butch Reynolds.

There is also an outstanding 5,000m in prospect from a field which includes Ethiopia's world record holder, Haile Guebre Silassie, Kenya's double world cross country champion, William Sigei, and Britain's Rob Denmark. The women's 3,000m, which includes the new world 2,000m champion, Sonia O'Sullivan, the European champion, Yvonne Murray, and South Africa's Zola Pieterse should provide another genuinely interesting competition.