Dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist John Steffensen has stepped up his attack on Athletics Australia (AA), accusing them of racial vilification while vowing to boycott the London Olympics.
Steffensen on Friday threatened to sit out the Games and not be part of the 4x400m men’s relay in protest at teenager Steve Solomon receiving an individual 400m spot.
The controversial runner went one step further in an incredible tirade on Channel 9 on Saturday morning, saying he has been racially vilified by AA.
“I don’t think it helps the legitimacy of our sport or the selection criteria, and I think it only makes our sport look stupid,” he said of AA’s decision to name the 19-year-old Solomon ahead of him for the one-lap race.
“The rules and the goalposts are getting shifted. Now they’re going to pick who they want to put in the team.
“I’ve put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams.
“…You think I waste my time running at training for fun? For this?
“No, they can have athletics. I don’t need to do this no more.”
Steffensen didn’t back down when asked about AA’s alleged racism.
“Read between the lines. I don’t really have to explain anything to you,” he said.
“You know it would help if I was a different colour.
“A lot of my decisions with my federation would be totally different.
“But I’ve never brought that up. I’ve always kept quiet on that. Because people aren’t really going to want to hear that sort of stuff.
“But it is the fact. It is the way it is. But I live with it and I keep running and keep representing my country.
“People say I got to run faster. If I’m not running fast enough – what are you saying about the boys behind me in my country?
“You saying they’re not good enough? For me, I’m done.”
The national sporting body confirmed on Friday night in London that Solomon was the only runner eligible to run the 400m despite neither he or Steffensen meeting the automatic qualifying time of 45.3 seconds.
AA has the power to choose one athlete with a B qualifier in the event, a standard reached by Solomon and Steffensen.
They have both already been picked for the 4x400m relay.
Even if Steffensen were to back down on his threat to boycott the Olympics, his comments are certain to create tension within the Australian camp not to mention the 4x400m men’s relay.
“I didn’t make the qualification. You never heard of me in these last six months. I didn’t say nothing,” Steffensen said.
“I was going to run the relay and go home and do the right thing by the sport.
“Now I’m saying something because they’re not doing the right thing by me.
“And at age 30 and the amount of years and effort I’ve put into the sport, the medals – everything I’ve done for the sport – I deserve a little bit of respect.”
Solomon burst into contention for the individual run by posting a career-best 45.52s at the world junior championships in Barcelona this week.
Steffensen, who set his best time for the year of 45.61s in February in Sydney, defeated Solomon at the Olympic trial in March before suffering a hamstring injury that has plagued his London preparations.