Campbell 'close to fight' with Johnson

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The Independent Online

An argument between the British sprinter and team captain, Darren Campbell, and the BBC athletics pundit, Michael Johnson, resulted in the pair squaring up in an Athens night-club yesterday.

An argument between the British sprinter and team captain, Darren Campbell, and the BBC athletics pundit, Michael Johnson, resulted in the pair squaring up in an Athens night-club yesterday.

Johnson, a five-times Olympic champion for the United States, was said to be eyeball-to-eyeball with Campbell, who has taken the brunt of criticism over the British sprint team.

The incident occurred in the early hours at a "Beach Beats" party thrown by MTV at the Akrotiri night-club, just hours after Campbell had failed to qualify for the 200 metres final.

The spat between the two men flared when Campbell said after the second round of the 200m that he would go through to the next round despite suffering a hamstring injury.

Johnson, a former 200m and 400m champion, pointed out that it took six weeks to recover from such an injury and said the apparent inconsistency has made him feel he had been "taken advantage of as a viewer and a supporter of Darren".

One witness to the nightclub stand-off said: "Campbell was blazing mad. We were waiting for the fists to fly. Campbell was asking Johnson straight if he thought he was a liar."

Campbell, a 200m silver medallist in Sydney, has also been embroiled in a row over standards in British athletics with Colin Jackson, the 110m hurdles world record holder and columnist for The Independent.

Well before the Games, Jackson criticised the sprinters, saying their regime was too comfortable, and Campbell countered that as a former athlete Jackson should be supporting Team GB rather than criticising them at such a crucial time.

Yesterday Campbell responded to the latest criticism from Jackson. "I tore my hamstring. If they want to see the scans they can. I don't lie and I don't quit" he said.

"I don't know how to give up.I spoke to my girlfriend after the first round of the 200m in tears, and she told me to come home. But I thought I'd try the second round, and I made it through to the semis.

"I had treatment for four hours just to get me on the track and it is only thanks to the medical team that I was out there."

Campbell's teammate Christian Malcolm also missed out on the 200m final after suffering the effects of a kidney problem, while Chris Lambert pulled out of his first-round 200m heat with injury.

With the failure of Campbell, Jason Gardner and Mark Lewis-Francis to qualify for the 100m final, 2004 was the first Olympics without any British representation in the men's sprint finals since 1976.

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