Martyn Rooney has questioned whether foul play might have been responsible for Britain’s 4x400m relay team being disqualified from Saturday’s final – allowing the Brazilian team to take their place in the closing event of the Olympic track and field programme.
Rooney had been confident that the team, who had taken bronze at last year’s world championships in Beijing, were on course for another medal after he anchored them to an impressive victory in their semi-finals.
But shortly after he crossed the line, officials ruled that the third runner in the British quartet, Matthew Hudson-Smith, had part of his foot outside the takeover zone when he began running – and disqualified the team. Two other countries – Trinidad & Tobago and India – were also disqualified.
The team lodged an immediate appeal and contacted the BBC to request video evidence to help their case. However the appeals jury decided the evidence was inconclusive and upheld the officials’ decision.
When asked whether it might be foul play given the Brazilians got in, Rooney replied: “I think so. I don’t want to say it’s corrupt because we don’t have evidence, but it’s crazy how three teams are disqualified and Brazil have found themselves in the final. I understand they ran very well for them but they didn’t qualify for the final and that should be it. It’s not in the spirit of the Olympics to go and look to get people disqualified.
“I feel like Michael Conlan, the Irish boxer – it’s a similar situation to that but we don’t have proof of it,” he added. “It’s a very bitter pill to swallow. I feel we haven’t done anything wrong, we ran out of our skins and we’ve just had it taken away from us. It’s just a very odd feeling, we’re powerless to change it even though I know we’re in the right. There’s nothing we can do about it so it’s a tough position to be in.”
Rooney said that his team-mates all felt bitter about the decision and believed it had cost the British team an almost certain medal in the final. “I’m very bitter and very angry,” he said. “We all went for a long walk and it was very tough. It was a night of mixed emotions – we were delighted for the women’s 4x100m, gutted for the men’s 4x100m and incredibly tough for them. After how well we ran, to get disqualified was a horrible experience.
“It’s been a terrible week for me. Individually in the 400m I can only blame myself for not getting out of the heats and now for us to have it taken from us in the relay is a horrible, horrible experience and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
However, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Athletics Federations said there had been no evidence of wrongdoing by officials. “The decision to reject the British protest was made late last night by the jury of appeal,” she said. “Apparently it was a clear case.”
The joy of Britain’s women was as palpable as the men’s despair, with a first Olympic 4x100m medal since 1984. Four years ago Desiree Henry was helping to light the Olympic cauldron with other young, talented British athletes, while Dina Asher-Smith was carrying boxes of kit for the athletes lining up. Asha Philip, Henry, Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita broke the British record they set last month, finishing third in 41.77sec. “This means an awful lot because not only have we worked hard to get faster as individuals, we have worked hard as a team,” Asher-Smith said. “To be able to come out here and deliver the goods when the pressure is on is incredible.”
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