Black says selectors lack 'shred of decency'

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The Independent Online
Roger Black protested yesterday at the decision of Britain's selectors to leave him out of the individual 400 metres team for next month's World Championships in favour of Jamie Baulch. He also criticised their "pathetic" response in failing to inform him before the story reached the media.

Malcolm Arnold, British athletics' performance director, said the decision to include Baulch instead of the 31-year-old Olympic silver medallist - who has been suffering from a virus infection - had been unanimous, and based on form. Black, however, was aggrieved that he had not been given a chance to show his fitness by running in Belgium on Saturday, three days before the selection deadline.

"I might have gone to Hechtel and run 45.5sec, in which case I would have said, 'fair enough, give the place to Jamie'," Black said yesterday. "I might have run 44.6 and felt great. But it doesn't matter now. I haven't been given an opportunity as they have closed the door completely.

"Jamie has run OK, but he hasn't broken 45 seconds this year, which I did 12 times last year. I don't think I have to prove myself as an athlete and they have not really listened to the medical situation I have had."

The man nominated to succeed Linford Christie as Britain's team captain was also angry about having to learn of the decision through a press call.

"I spoke to the chairman of selectors, David Cropper, asking him why they had not had the courtesy to let me know what the situation was," Black said. "He replied that they were planning to call me an hour before Tuesday's official press conference, which I find incredibly naive."

Black will not now run in Hechtel - "What's the point now?" he said - but will concentrate on training with a view to running the relay in Athens.

He paid the price for not being at the trials, where the 23-year-old Baulch finished third behind the two automatic qualifiers, Iwan Thomas and Mark Richardson, in 45.02.

"The thing that really upset me is that no one contacted me to tell me about this," Black added. "No one had the decency or the courtesy just to phone me and tell me 'Sorry Roger, we have made the decision, you're not going to be happy with it, but we just want you to know how we feel about it'.

"I find that absolutely staggering. They have not shown a shred of decency. It's no way to treat people and if it's going to happen to myself as Olympic silver medallist and team captain who has been around for 12 years, it can happen to anyone.

"I am very angry - it is just bad man management. It is as if they're saying 'Sorry Roger, we don't respect your illness'.''

Arnold - who briefly floated the idea that Black could be offered a wild card for Athens before an International Amateur Athletic Federation official ruled it out - denied this was the case. "If we upset people, we are terribly sorry, but it does not lessen our regard for Roger Black. He is a great athlete.

"If we did not pick Jamie Baulch, what message are we sending out to young athletes on the verge of a brilliant career?''

Baulch, who won a world indoor silver medal this year and a silver with the Olympic relay team, is a highly talented runner who will acquit himself well in Athens. But Black, who would not run unless he knew he could do himself and the team justice, should have been given a chance. And the failure to inform him was particularly shoddy given the amount of time he had dedicated in the last two years to forming the British Athletes' Association, the body formed to foster good relations between individual athletes, sponsors and the federation.

Baulch was naturally delighted at the news. "I couldn't believe it when I got the letter in the post this morning," he said. "It has been an anxious 24 hours. Every time I answered the phone yesterday I was hoping it was someone telling me I was in. But this takes all the pressure off me now. It is hard on Roger, but then that's athletics.''

The team reflects the successful weekend enjoyed by Britain's younger generation at the European Under-23 Championships. Two of the gold medallists get individual places - Julian Golding in the 200m and Allison Curbishley at 400m, as does the silver medallist in the high hurdles, Diane Allahgreen.

British team, Digest, page 23

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