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Johnson to help fast-track British sprinting talent

25 May 2006

By David Powell

Michael Johnson, the 200 and 400 metres world record-holder who has been among the most vociferous critics of British athletes in recent years, could soon be working from the inside for UK Athletics.

Johnson said yesterday that he had been approached by Dave Collins, Great Britain’s performance director, with a view to taking up an official role with UKA. “I think I can be a help, not a hindrance,” Johnson, the former Olympic and world champion from the United States, said.

As a BBC pundit, he was scathing of England’s sprinters in particular, and British athletics in general, at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March. “They have lost the hunger and it is the system which causes them to lose the hunger,” Johnson said. “The system rewards mediocrity. It rewards Great Britain’s best, not the world’s best.”

Since taking up his post last year, Collins has changed the way elite athletics operates and several former champions,including Daley Thompson and Steve Backley, have been brought in to lend support. “I like some of the things he said and (he) liked some of the things I said,” Johnson said of his talks with Collins.

In the meantime, sprinting awaits the return of Dwain Chambers, who has served a two-year doping ban but whose case has been complicated by his admission that he took drugs before the date of the offence for which he was found guilty. The IAAF said yesterday that the terms under which he must pay back prize-money should be with him by today. If Chambers agrees, he could be back racing immediately.

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