Athletics Australia is stubbornly blind to common sense


Sally Pearson, Alex Rowe and Benn Harradine had all done the right thing, the sensible thing, the smart thing … so of course they had to be fined.

An athlete can be at once right and wrong according to the perverse logic of Athletics Australia.

The athletes’ smart decision was to not attend the team’s Gateshead camp by a deadline date and instead go out to compete. Good idea AA said. Well done. Whatever is best to get you right.

Oh, but by the way, we won’t give you any money if you don’t at least walk through the camp.

These are not the sport’s minnows. Sally Pearson has held the sport together for years. She is one of the greatest athletes Australia has seen. She should be entitled flexibility to get herself right. The pre-games funding is after all for preparation, not pocket money to spend at the Gateshead tuckshop.

Harradine is trying to defend his Commonwealth Gold medal and Alex Rowe has in days become a significant figure.

Rowe’s run in the 800m on Friday night was thrilling. He ran quicker than any Australian man in 46 years and matched one of the most storied – and enduring – national records on the track.

AA – rightly – spent the weekend tweeting and proudly boasting of Rowe’s performance in recording the same time as Ralph Doubell then – wrongly – sanctioned him for being in the race in the first place.

Rowe will lose a third of the funding he might have got, or about $860. It is not a large amount of money (which is also precisely the point about why it is being quibbled over in the first case) but this is the funding for a 22-year-old university student athlete who as yet still does not have a shoe sponsorship.

Ridiculously Rowe would not have lost funding if he had flown into Gateshead, clocked in and flown out again for Monaco.

Pearson will also lose a third of her bit of this funding, but she was on a larger rate so her chunk of cash is slightly more. She can better afford it than Rowe, but that is not the point.

Amusingly, the person who made this rule and was presented to explain the crushingly ironic logic of this situation, Simon Nathan, carries the title of high performance manager. What the athletes all did was, the high performance manager admitted, the best thing for their high performance.

To be fair, he at least had the decency to look sheepish and personally unconvinced by the conflicted position he had knotted himself into.

“I know it probably doesn’t look like it or feel like it (but) we are a sensible organisation,” he said.

It didn’t help that he then quoted the wrong figure for how much out of pocket Rowe was to be (he’s out a third of his money like the other two but for Rowe’s funding level  that equates to $860 not the $1300 that Nathan said.)

AA has a profound capacity to seize disaster from the glorious. This is the same organisation that this year was not funding Melissa Breen when she became the fastest Australian woman ever and then waited months before giving her a fraction of the funding she should have been entitled to.

The same one that had to be bullied by the Australian Olympic Committee to add Genevieve La Caze to the London Olympic team when she ran a qualifying time moments after an arbitrary final deadline had past.

The reason that those farces occurred is the same reason that this stupidity has been allowed to manifest: because AA has been stubbornly blind to common sense. They have now allowed the greatness of Rowe’s performance to be overshadowed by the niggardly and doctrinaire.

The premise of the idea to tie funding to attend the camp is a good one, but it needed to be a flexible one. The rules when introduced were meritorious, as AA wanted to stop athletes thumbing their nose at the sport and splintering off into small camps with their own coaches.

Rightly AA said ‘if you want to do your own thing, that is fine, just don’t ask us to pay for it’.

But that is not what these athletes were doing. Rowe and Harradine both arrived at the camp but only after competing. They were a little late.

Pearson would have been at the camp too but only decided late to accept the offer to compete in the Anniversary Games because she knows that after her hamstring twitch she needs races more than camps.

They were all doing the right thing. The sensible thing. The smart thing. It was their sporting body that was not.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.