Racism claims dismissed
OUTSPOKEN Australian 400-metres runner John Steffensen could be suspended for the second time in two years for bringing his sport into disrepute.
After an investigation lasting several months, Athletics Australia (AA) has rejected claims of racial vilification and discrimination made by Steffensen before the 2012 Olympics.
He will be required to appear before an independent tribunal in January to answer a number of allegations.
Steffensen, of South African descent, claimed racism was at the centre of his not earning an individual 400 metres starting berth at the London Games.
''I've put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams. You know it would help if I was a different colour,'' Steffensen said at the time.
AA instead selected teenager Steve Solomon, who rewarded its faith by twice smashing his personal best and qualifying for the final.
Steffensen, the 2006 Commonwealth Games champion in the event, also claimed he was the subject of racial slurs by team officials during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Much of the 30-year-old's anger was directed towards AA chief executive Dallas O'Brien, whom he accused of lying to him about why Solomon got the nod.
After months of investigations by lawyer Paul Horvath, AA responded on Thursday, saying none of Steffensen's claims could be substantiated.
''The result of the investigation is that the allegations of racial vilification or discrimination made by Steffensen cannot be substantiated either generally or in relation to his non-selection in the individual men's 400 metres,'' the statement read.
''Furthermore, the investigation has concluded that there was no basis for stating that O'Brien had lied or was a liar.''
According to AA, Steffensen provided evidence, along with a number of other athletes and officials.
The independent tribunal in January will hear allegations that Steffensen's ''statements and conduct have been insulting or improper or likely to bring the sport of athletics into disrepute and that he has breached the Athletics Australia Team Member Code of Conduct''.
Steffensen had previously served a three-month ban beginning in late 2010 for bringing athletics into disrepute. That time, he was sanctioned for abusing AA officials at the national championships and for further comments made when announcing his withdrawal from the team for the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Steffensen was unhappy at not being guaranteed selection by AA to defend his individual 400 metres title in Delhi after being hampered by a back injury in the lead-up to the trials.
Steffensen could not be reached for comment on Thursday.