Athletics: Collins defends sending sprinter to Gatlin's coach

On the top floor of the Gothia Towers Hotel, with its pan-oramic views of Sweden's second city, the guests are drinking their afternoon coffees in the Heaven 23 Bar. All of them, that is, except two athletes in Great Britain tracksuits leaning on the bar drinking bottles of Mariestads, the favoured tipple in these parts. It is 3.15pm.

Whether Dave Collins clocks the pair as he enters the room is difficult to tell. If he does, their next report sheets may well have minus marks on them and "See me" comments.

The performance director of UK Athletics is in the Heaven 23 Bar to give his thoughts on a week in which British athletics has plummeted to hellishly low depths. "I'm the man in charge, so I'm where the buck would stop," Collins says of presiding over the worst performance by a British team in the history of the European Championships. "Coming here and having our worst medal haul doesn't please anybody. But if that's part of the process that's taking us in the right direction as quickly as we can do it, then it's a fair price to pay."

That direction, already steeply downward after two decades of European prominence, could well, Collins concedes, continue through the Beijing Olympics two years hence, without a British gold on the track or in the field.

"Would it worry me to go to Beijing and not get a gold medal?" he ponders. "I wouldn't necessarily be throwing myself out of the window if that happened.

"If we went to Beijing with a really good gold medal hope and we didn't complete then I'd be worried. What would faze me would be that we've put in the changes but we're not seeing people step up to the plate, that we're not seeing performances starting to rise."

On his own performance 18 months into his job, Collins reflects: "If you're saying on how this programme is doing, it's 6.5 out of 10. I can honestly say that I don't think I can work much harder. It's a frustration that we're not making progress at a faster rate, but when I came into this job there were lots of things that needed to be addressed - coach education, even silly things like the distribution of kit."

It is a sign of progress, then, that the vests and shorts have managed to reach the athletes here. It is rather less encouraging that Collins cannot seem to appreciate the error of his decision to grant the teenage sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey permission to train with Justin Gatlin and his coach, Trevor Graham, in North Carolina in April. It might have been three months before Gatlin tested positive for excessive testosterone, but the doping bans received by 10 of Graham's athletes were already public, as was testimony from C J Hunter and Tim Montgomery implicating Graham in the investi-gation into the Balco drugs case.

"We've got to compete against these people and we have to learn how can we beat them, and that means you look at what else they do," Collins says. "I've competed against people who've been on drugs [as a judo player]. I beat them sometimes. Is there something else we can learn from what they do, bar the pharmaceuticals? Of course we can. You look widely around the world at people who have been effective and you see if you can get them involved. We have got to look at international best practice.

"I was aware of some aspects of the record [Graham's record]. But for me, you would say, 'There is a successful coach. Can we learn from that situation?' Because they are doing things that are effective over and above pharmaceuticals. Being successful as an athlete is not just about pharmaceuticals, is it?"

It is a question that the "mentor coach" whom Collins chose to introduce at a press conference down the road at the Hard Rock Café on Wednesday might be qualified to answer. Back in 1999, Linford Christie registered 100 times above the legal limit for nandrolone.

In a week which started with Christine Ohuruogu being suspended for missing three drugs tests, it is enough to make you turn to drink - and that's not just the athletes.


Men's Marathon

Olympic champion Stefano Baldini of Italy is favourite, Dan Robinson looks to build on his Commonwealth bronze.

Men's 800m

Michael Rimmer (20) was fastest in the heats and Sam Ellis (24) assured in the semis. Both could figure in top five.

Women's Long Jump

Carolina Kluft faces in-form Russian opponents but, with a home crowd, don't rule out the untouchable heptathlete.

Men's 5,000m

Mo Farah looks more like the real international-class deal with every race - a medal does not look beyond him.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea