Van Commenee attacks Idowu for tweeting GB team pull-out

Triple jumper lacked 'dignity and responsibility' in using Twitter to withdraw from Euro Team Championships
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The Independent Online

It has been quite a week for Phillips Idowu.

Last weekend the world triple jump champion was awarded an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list. Yesterday he was given the order of the Great British twit, accused of letting down his country via Twitter.

On the eve of the European Team Championships, which open in the 1912 Olympic Stadium here this afternoon, Charles van Commenee, head coach of the Great Britain squad for the two-day event, accused Idowu of lacking "responsibility and dignity" for announcing his withdrawal on Twitter.

On a day on which Van Commenee also declared an interest in continuing in the post of head coach of UK Athletics beyond the 2012 Olympics, the Dutchman could not conceal his despair at the actions of Idowu, who was named in the British team on 7 June but then – before competing, and winning, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in New York last Saturday – tweeted to the world: "No European team championships 4 me this year."

"I'm very unhappy with the timing of his decision and the way he communicated it through Twitter," Van Commenee said. "I've told him it's not on. I expect any team member to represent Britain with a certain responsibility and dignity, certainly as a world champion. Using Twitter to announce that he has changed his mind is simply not acceptable." Van Commenee added that the tweet was the first he had heard of Idowu's decision.

Asked whether any disciplinary action would be taken against the 32-year-old Belgrave Harrier – one of the senior members of the British squad – Van Commenee replied: "That is between the athlete and me." As for the reason for the withdrawal, the GB head coach said: "Idowu decided it was a bit too much travelling for him."

It is not the first time Idowu has used Twitter to announce his withdrawal from an event. He did so last autumn when he decided not to travel to Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. On that occasion he had been selected for the England track and field team, which is outside Van Commenee's jurisdiction as head coach of UK Athletics.

Seven other athletes have withdrawn from the British team for this weekend's competition, which, unlike Diamond League meetings and Grand Prix events, does not offer prize money or appearance fees. Additionally, Mo Farah has been given permission to miss the trip after his recent British-record breaking exertions at 10,000m – likewise Jessica Ennis after her heptathlon success in Götzis last month, although she is due to compete on home ground at the Northern Championships in Manchester tomorrow.

"Obviously we want the strongest athletes in the team but I can also see the bigger picture," Van Commenee said. "Mo Farah is not here because he's spending a lot of time at altitude and this would interrupt that training. The decision was taken after conversations with him. It clearly didn't fit into the planning. The same with Jessica Ennis.

"But with Phillips it was different. His coach [Aston Moore] was actually in the selection room, so it was agreed that he would compete."

Idowu is not the first luminary of the sporting world, this week even, to cause a flutter with his Twittering – footballer Joey Barton having followed in the Tweet-marks of the likes of Australian cricketer Phil Hughes and golfer Ian Poulter. "The reality in this modern age is that you can't control these things," Van Commenee reflected. "A lot of my colleagues struggle with it as well, when we are preparing the Team GB concept for the Olympic Games.

"It can have an impact on team dynamics and team management. I see a lot of my colleagues in football also struggling with it. It's a reality and we have to find a way to deal with it. Can we forbid it? No. But we can help our athletes use that medium smartly and deal with it when accidents occur.

"If we bring in any rule, it cannot be that we forbid the athletes to use it. We give guidelines and count on common sense," he added.

One stipulation likely to be added to the future contracts of British athletes on Lottery funding is that of their availability for the European Team Championships, the next edition of which will be at Gateshead in 2013.

Asked whether he might still be in charge, Van Commenee, whose contract expires after the London Olympics, said: "Absolutely. It is certainly my intention to hit the target at the Games [a tally of eight medals], and then we can talk about me staying.

"But certainly it is my ambition. A lot of jobs depend on success or failure in 2012, so hopefully if we do well then everybody can carry on."

Tweet Indiscretions: Sportsmen who have typed too much

Joey Barton

Only this week the outspoken Newcastle midfielder tweeted after the sale of captain Kevin Nolan to West ham: "Just on my way to Ascot, feel sick. #whatgoinonatthetoonffs." He later added: "great player, leader, captain, person, trainer and mostly a friend for life. Devastated to see him SOLD! #mejoseandjonasnext," before the club contacted him the stop him tweeting.

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu

After his side's 12-10 defeat to Saracens in the Premiership semi-final last month, the Gloucester centre sarcastically wrote on his Twitter account: "I would say the referee was a joke but I'd probably get fined for it so I won't." He has yet to be disciplined.

Dimitri Mascarenhas

The batsman issued a foul-mouthed tirade at England selector Geoff Miller last September: "Geoff miller is a complete knob. He had no clue what he is doing. Fing prick." He was fined £1,000 by his county Hampshire, and has not played for England since.

Kevin Pietersen

After being dropped for the England one-day team to face Pakistan last September, an angry Pietersen tweeted: "Done for rest of summer!! Man of the World Cup T20 and dropped from the T20 side too.. Its [sic] a fuck up." He was fined an undisclosed amount by the ECB.

Danny Gabbidon

The defender sent a message to West Ham fans on Twitter after a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in April: "U know what, f*** the lot of you, u will never get another tweet from me again, you just don't get it do you. Bye bye." He was fined £6,000 by the Football Association.

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