It remains to be seen whether Mark Lewis-Francis will pass the track and field equivalent of an MOT when he runs in the sprint strip in the Ferry Dusika Stadion but the young speed merchant has been given the green light to race in the European indoor championships, despite the warrant issued for his arrest when he travelled to the Austrian capital with the British team on Wednesday instead of being sentenced for motoring offences at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
After discussions yesterday between UK Athletics, the governing body of the sport in Britain, and court officers in Wolverhampton it was announced that Lewis-Francis would be staying here to compete in the championships, which open this morning and continue through to Sunday evening. "Mark does not have to go back today," Emily Lewis, of UK Athletics, said. "He will report to the police when he gets back on Monday."
Lewis-Francis, who is now free to run in the 60m heats tomorrow morning, has pleaded guilty by post to charges of driving without a licence, without insurance and without an MOT certificate and with failing to produce documents and failing to stop at a red light. He has told British team officials that he has no knowledge of receiving a court summons.
"He's bemused," Max Jones, leader of the British team here, said. "He thought it was all done and dusted. He'll compete here and then face the music when he gets home on Monday – if he does have any music to face."
The immediate problem facing Lewis-Francis is how to place his legal troubles to one side and summon the motivation required to maintain the momentum of a burgeoning sprinting career. At 19, the Birchfield Harrier has already won a world indoor championship bronze medal and a European Cup race. He also stands second on the European 60m rankings this year, with a time of 6.53sec, 0.01sec behind his British team-mate Jason Gardener.
"Mark is a bit upset about what has happened," Jones said, "but hopefully he can overcome that and perform well out here. It's a bit of a burden for someone to carry, though, especially someone so young.
"It could either make him run badly or it could make him run brilliantly, by using his pent up anger. We'll see when he runs in the heats on Saturday."Reuse content