A major split in Britain's distance running policy opened up yesterday as Alan Warner, chairman of the British Athletic Federation's road running commission, came under fierce personal attack from David Bedford, head of marketing for tomorrow's London Marathon.
Bedford criticised Warner for failing to turn up to an event in which a number of Britain's leading male marathon runners were seeking the remaining Olympic place following the pre-selection of Richard Nerurkar and Peter Whitehead.
Warner, who attended Monday's Boston marathon in his longstanding position as a paid consultant to the sponsors, John Hancock, faxed the London organisers this week to say that he would not be attending tomorrow's race as he was on holiday. "He's gone on holiday, and I have to say I think that is a disgrace," said Bedford, who questioned the British selectors' supposition that no runner who competed in a spring marathon could do themselves justice in Atlanta.
"Talking to Alan Warner is a waste of time," he said. "It's like coming up against a brick wall. He doesn't want to know. He doesn't want to listen."
Five of Britain's leading contenders tomorrow - Paul Evans, Eamonn Martin, Gary Staines, Jon Solly and Paul Hudspith - agreed the selection policy was wrong, and that London should be the designated official trial race for future events. If all run according to their potential, the selectors could be embarrassed by Sunday lunchtime.
There was general acceptance of the fact that Whitehead had been picked, as he had fulfilled the laid-down criterion of finishing in the first five places in last year's world championships, but the decision to extend a place to Nerurkar, who was seventh, was criticised.
Both athletes have recovered from injury in recent months, although Nerurkar signalled his fitness last week with a personal best half-marathon of 61min 06sec in Paris.
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