Sensational sprinter Steven Gardiner is still in limbo, but a strong voice has come out in support of him.
Last August, it was reported to the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA), and publicly, that quarter-mile star Gardiner had refused to take part in the first round of the men’s 1600 meters (m) relay at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) London World Championships.
The BAAA immediately took action. A panel was appointed, inclusive of noted track and field figures Malcolm Adderley and Dr. Timmy Barrett, for the purpose of making a ruling on the situation. The circumstances, from the very beginning, baffled the person who had been appointed by the BAAA, and indeed functioned as the relay coordinator for Team Bahamas at the World Championships in London.
Reference is to Rupert Gardiner, a veteran, proven track and field mind. He was a quality middle distance runner, and has contributed significantly as a coach in various capacities for national teams. Most recently, his insight to juggle runners and present the line-up (Ojay Ferguson, Teray Smith, Stephen Newbold and Alonzo Russell) at the Commonwealth Games, this past April, resulted in a silver medal for The Bahamas. So, Rupert Gardiner understands quite well all of the aspects, the nuances, the intangibles, the gray areas, the points of substances of the sport of track and field in The Bahamas. He is as familiar with the athletes in the country as any other and more so than most.
It is from this backdrop that Coach Gardiner decided to come out and expose the true factors of the 2017 World Championships relay issue surrounding the other Gardiner (Steven), one of the finest athletes the country has ever produced, and presently the leading 400 meters (m) runner in the world. He is also one of the leading 200m runners in the world.
“Steve should not be in this particular situation at all. No investigation is necessary. It’s unfair to him. I told everybody. I told the executives of the BAAA that I, as the relay coordinator, gave Steve permission to sit out the first round of the relay at the Worlds. I watched him in the three races he ran, inclusive of the silver medal run, and his body was severely taxed. I didn’t feel his body was up to giving us his best in the first round of the relay.
“My position was to let him get another day’s rest and to see if we could get through to the next round and have a fresher Steve. That was my thinking and I told him he did not have to run. It is my understanding that the head coach went behind my back and expressed a desire for Steve to run. After we spoke, no doubt, mentally, he was not prepared for the first round. Now, it seems they are after him.
“This is unfair. If they want to penalize anyone, investigate and discipline me. I said as much to the executives. Steve did what the relay coordinator told him he could do. This business of a panel and a decision to be made about Steve, I just don’t understand. I contend that if the head coach had a problem, after speaking with Steve at the worlds, knowing that I was the relay coordinator, there should have been a discussion between the two of us.
“No one came to me to discuss the issue. The next thing I knew, Steve was under pressure. Even now, with him having such a spectacular season, he doesn’t know what’s the situation regarding his status. There was a meeting recently, and my understanding is that the BAAA has put a deadline for a report from the panel to November. This is ridiculous. The national championships are just in about two weeks. Should he run? Just what is his status? I just think it is unfair to have this situation held over his head,” said Coach Gardiner.
I commend Coach Gardiner for his boldness and the interest demonstrated in defending Steven Gardiner. Unless the BAAA can produce evidence refutable to what Coach Gardiner has said, it sure seems as though Steven Gardiner has been done an injustice, which continues.
I think panelists Adderley and Dr. Barrett who I know quite well, are in a tight spot. Both are former athletes. Adderley was once an outstanding high school quarter-miler and Dr. Barrett was the “Golden Boy” of triple jumping and also a high standout volleyball player. They understand protocol. They have to decide whether Steven was within his rights to accede to the relay coordinator who had given him a waiver from the first round of the relay, before there was a conversation with the head coach.
I think Steven Gardiner should be cleared and the entire track and field fraternity in the country should move on.
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