Athletics: Gardener cleared of jumping gun

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The Independent Online

It took the best part of three days, but Jason Gardener was formally cleared yesterday of the false start he blatantly did not make in the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham on Sunday night. An investigation launched by UK Athletics has discovered that a delay in activating the mechanism which detects false starts resulted in Gardener being penalised for jumping the starting gun in the 60 metres final when he had in fact been the fourth sprinter to rise from the starting blocks.

"The false start shouldn't have been attributed to Jason Gardener," Emily Lewis, the UK Athletics spokesman, confirmed. Gardener also received a phone call from the meeting organisers Fast Track absolving him from blame. "I knew all along that it was not down to me," he said.

Gardener finished third when the race was re-run but was clearly handicapped by having to make a cautious start to avoid the risk of being disqualified for a second false start. It resulted in the Bath sprinter's first indoor defeat to a fellow European for three years, finishing 0.01 seconds behind the runner-up Mark Lewis-Francis and losing £910 in prize money in the process.

The pair meet again when Gardener defends his European indoor title in Vienna next weekend and the first past the post in that encounter will be Britain's 60m representative in the Norwich Union International match at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on 9 March, the spot having been left vacant in the team announced yesterday.

There were also two notable absentees from the German squad selected from Vienna, Dieter Baumann and Grit Breuer, raising John Mayock and Catherine Murphy to third place in the rankings among the athletes who will be competing in their events – the 3,000m and 400m – in the Austrian capital.

* Denise Lewis, the Olympic heptathlon champion, has confirmed she is still planning to take part in the Commonwealth Games and European Championships this summer even though she will give birth to her first child in April. "It is going to be a challenge but I want to get back to being an athlete," the 29-year-old said.