Charles van Commenee reveals that he was close to dumping Phillips Idowu from Team GB squad

Head coach irritated by fitness saga but insists he had to give triple jumper chance to 'fulfil his dream'

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The Independent Online

Head coach Charles van Commenee revealed last night that he had considered dropping Phillips Idowu from the British track and field squad for the London Olympics because of the uncertain state of the triple jumper's fitness.

Speaking at the team's pre-Games holding camp here on the Algarve, Van Commenee confided: "I had a sanction not to enter him for the Games but I decided not to play that card."

Talking frankly about a saga that has come to cloud the British team's preparations for the home Games, which open tomorrow, the Dutch coach in charge of the athletics squad agreed that the whole uncertainty and misinformation surrounding Idowu's situation had become a "circus", saying that it was "undermining how the sport should be run".

Van Commenee and the bulk of the British athletics team have been in Portugal for a week, finalising their preparations for the track and field programme at the Games, which does not start until a week tomorrow, but it was announced on Monday that Idowu would be staying in London to have private treatment for a hip problem, prompting the British Olympic Association to request his medical records.

"I felt I didn't want to be in the way of this athlete fulfilling his dream," Van Commenee added. "It's a difficult one, because it's undermining how the sport should be run and proper governance.

"Whether it undermines me is a question that's up to other athletes to answer. I don't feel my position has been undermined but I could understand if people look at it that way."

Asked whether the drawn-out episode – with Van Commenee stating that Idowu missed the Olympic trials in Birmingham last month because of injury, and Idowu then suggesting otherwise before the London Grand Prix a fortnight ago – had become a circus, the GB head coach replied: "Absolutely. It's not great for athletics as a sport.

"It doesn't look good on anybody, but I have only one sanction and I decided not to play that card – because of him, because of the crowd, and because the nation will cry. I can see the point of putting the sanction in place for clarity and for the long-term future and how we run and want to run the sport.

"The question is, 'Do I sacrifice a potential gold medallist for a transparent and clear policy that makes the sport easier to run in the future – or not?' And I decided to have sympathy and to give Phillips the chance to win."

Idowu, the 2009 world champion in the triple jump, has not competed since 2 June but Van Commenee said that he would be happy if the 33-year-old Londoner went into the qualifying round of his event on Tuesday week, even if he was 70 per cent fit.

"Yeah, probably," Van Commenee said. "But you need to know that it's 70 to 80 per cent. What you don't want is 50 per cent of the British team with broken legs and in wheelchairs in the Olympic Village.

"There has to be something in place in the selection criteria that prevents that from happening. You want fit athletes in the team. If there is an indication after a medical examination or looking at the medical records that a particular athlete is 70 or 80 per cent, I'm sure they'll be given the green light.

"I can't say what the BOA will do because it's not me that's doing it, but that is a likely thing to happen."

Van Commenee said he was not surprised that the BOA had made the request to see Idowu's medical records. "Not at all," he said, "because it's in the athletes' contract, so it's a normal thing to happen.

"I can understand the BOA, because there is something like fairness across the board. Every rule has to apply to every athlete. Dave Webb, for instance, has been deselected from the marathon because of lack of fitness.

"So if you apply it to one athlete, I assume you have to apply it to everyone. I don't want to defend the BOA policy. That's not my role. I'm just saying that every principle applies to everybody.

"Paragraph 27 in the selection criteria states that if there is a query about an athlete's fitness, then the BOA can ask for a medical examination, and the next step if that doesn't give all the answers is that a fitness test can be put in place. It's not an automatic sequence. There is a choice."

Van Commenee revealed that Idowu had been using medical services outside the official UK Athletics system since June and admitted that neither himself nor the Belgrave Harrier's personal coach, Aston Moore, a member of the coaching team out here, were aware of his current state of fitness.

"I don't know and Aston also doesn't know," Van Commenee said. "I obviously would have preferred Phillips to be here. This is the best place to prepare."

Bolt declared to be 'fully fit'

Jamaica track team doctor Winston Dawes expects Usain Bolt to be in prime shape to defend his three Olympic titles.

Bolt has been struggling with niggling leg and back problems in recent weeks which have translated themselves into some relatively poor times, while he was also beaten by Yohan Blake in the 100 metres and 200m at the Olympic trials.

"He's back fully," Dawes said. "He has been training very hard and his performance is on track."