The inclusion of Russell Garcia, the player-coach of the Second Division German club Gross Flottbeker, in the Great Britain squad for the Four Nations' Tournament in Athens next month is a brave decision by Jason Lee, Britain's chief coach, which deserves success.
The 33-year-old Garcia, Britain's most capped player and a Seoul gold medallist, was banned in 1999 for three months after taking cocaine at a party a few days before a scheduled drugs test at a training camp.
After some indecision, he then withdrew from the British squad preparing for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Last August, he announced his desire to return to international hockey. Though the initial official reaction was that he had been away from the international scene too long for a comeback, the appointment of Lee, who played alongside Garcia in the Atlanta Olympics, at the end of the year brought a change of heart.
On announcing the decision after a three-day training camp, Lee said of Garcia: "It was clear that, after nerves settled, he is still capable of being world class." Garcia said: "The incident is in the past and I now want to concentrate on my hockey. I served my ban and acknowledge that I made a mistake. But it was three years ago. Since then I have worked full-time in hockey, both coaching and playing in Germany."
The resentment and misgivings that certain of his playing colleagues who are still in the squad had had prior to Sydney, appear to have evaporated, the view being that if his return helps Britain to qualify for the Olympics and win a medal, then his recall has their support.
GREAT BRITAIN SQUAD (for Four Nations' Tournament, in Athens, 4-8 February). Men's squad: S Mason (gk), T Bertram, M Pearn (Reading); J Lewis (gk), R Garcia (Gross Flottbeker); J Collins, D Hall, G Fordham (Guildford); C Parnham, M Johnson, M Jones, B Middleton (Cannock); J Wallis, B Garrard, B Hawes (Surbiton); N Stott (Dundee Wanderers); G Dunlop, G Moodie (Western Wildcats). Women's squad: H Rose (gk), A Bennett (Canterbury); J Bimson, S Blanks, C Cullen (Fyffes Leicester); V Bunce, L Clement (Bonagrass Grove); H Grant, D Marston-Smith (Clifton); F Greenham, M Nicholson, K Walsh (Slough); L King (Ipswich); E Rochlin (Klein Zwitserland); R Simpson (Giffnock); M Thomas (gk, Hightown); R Walker, L Wright (Olton).Reuse content