Disciplinary threat hangs over Jackson

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The Independent Online
Britain's hopes for next month's World Championships took a sudden lurch yesterday as Sally Gunnell announced that she was not fit enough to defend her 400 metres hurdles title and Colin Jackson's participation was called into question by the threat of disciplinary action from the British Athletic Federation.

The Welshman caused dismay and anger within the Federation by racing - and winning - a 110m hurdles in Padua, Italy, yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after he had pulled out of the 100m at the KP National Championships and trials in Birmingham because of injury.

Peter Radford, the Federation's executive chairman, said he would be seeking a full explanation from the world record holder for an action which has emphasised the gulf which exists between some elite British athletes and their governing body.

Radford said on Saturday that Jackson had withdrawn with a groin strain and would not be racing for some days in order to assess the severity of the injury. "I was clearly labouring under an illusion," he said yesterday. "I am obviously very disappointed by that."

Malcolm Arnold, Britain's chief coach and Jackson's coach for more than 15 years, was equally dismayed at the news. "I am mesmerised," he said. "I can't understand it. He had intensive physiotherapy and he told me he was going back to Cardiff because he was in a bad state."

Radford would not be drawn on whether Jackson's place in Gothenburg would be at risk, pointing out that the selectors would have to meet before announcing the team today. But given the executive chairman's evident anger, it would not be a surprise if Jackson's name were missing from the squad. Radford hinted that further efforts may be required on his part and added that the Federation would seek to tighten up their rules over athletes competing overseas to prevent such occurrences in the future.

Jackson, who was said to have received around pounds 22,000 for racing in Padua, won in 13.32sec. Florian Schwarthoff, the German who has beaten Jackson in their last three races, was second in 13.36. "I am over my physical problems now," he said. "Everything's fine." Not quite everything.

Linford Christie's hopes of retaining his 100m title in Gothenburg may rest on the success of treatment he has in Germany today for the hamstring inury which hampered him on Saturday, causing him to seek - and receive - a controversial guest appearance in the final after failing to qualify.

Gunnell, who has not competed since the end of last season because of Achilles tendon problems, said: "I've decided I can't get into shape to retain the title. It's disappointing, but I've missed about two months training and the tendon is still jarring when I'm hurdling. I just want to get out there running again and I hope I can be part of the 4x400m relay in Gothenburg."

Championship reports, page 22