Sally Pearson.

Pearson in firing line as athletics boss hits out

The president of Athletics Australia has hit out after the women's marathon selection chaos that rocked the sport this week, claiming some commentary has been "baseless, unfounded and damaging", as well as "defamatory" and "simply not true".

After speaking to a host of informed sources, Wide World of Sports revealed exclusively on Tuesday that Athletics Australia selectors had picked Sinead Diver, Genevieve Gregson and Jessica Stenson to run the women's marathon at the Paris Olympics.

WWOS also revealed exclusively that Lisa Weightman, one of six Australian women who met the 2:26:50 entry standard within the qualification period, was in an ugly appeals fight.

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WWOS reported that after speaking to her manager, Robert Joske, who was appointed this week as the Weightman camp dealt with the devastating selection call.

Among the people who've been scathing of Athletics Australia selectors is Australian Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson.

"I'm disappointed with the national selection panel, but I'm more shocked at the integrity of Athletics Australia and how this has become a total farce," Pearson wrote in a News Corp column.

Sally Pearson.

Pearson wasn't named in Athletics Australia's retort, but a thinly veiled swipe was taken in her direction.

Athletics Australia (AA) released a statement on Thursday attributed to Jane Flemming, AA's president and an Olympian in 1988 and 1992.

"… To date, some media and social media commentary regarding this selection has been baseless, unfounded and damaging to the sport and individuals involved," part of the AA statement said.

"Any allegations that Athletics Australia or Athletics Australia's selection panel has not acted with integrity is also defamatory, and simply not true."

Moments before the Pearson column was published, Weightman's manager torched AA in an interview with WWOS.

"They [AA] have got their own policy on how they're going to select, they have their selection period in which they're asking people to compete," Joske said.

"She [Weightman] has come in as the third-best performer [by time] and they've selected not the fourth-best performer but the fifth-best performer [Stenson] across that period.

"… As much as it sticks in everyone's craw that the principles of the selection process are totally devoid of any ethics, Lisa is just going to have to wear it.

"AA's integrity has to be questioned and their actions have to be considered unethical."

Joske described AA's handling of the selection process as "disappointing" and said Weightman was "heartbroken".

Joske said the Weightman camp spent tens of thousands of dollars in engaging the National Sports Tribunal (NST).

The NST ruled in favour of Weightman, but AA refused to overturn its decision, Joske said.

The NST requested AA to appoint an independent selection committee, but AA rejected that request, according to Joske.

Weightman had an opportunity to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but she opted against doing so because of an estimated $50,000 legal bill, her manager said.

The six women who met the Olympic entry standard within the qualification period were Diver, Gregson, Stenson, Weightman, Izzi Batt-Doyle and Eloise Wellings.

The non-selection of Weightman dashed her hopes of becoming the first Australian track and field athlete to contest five Olympic Games.

Plans for the Australian Olympic Committee to announce the women's marathon team have stalled repeatedly in recent weeks, but the announcement is now imminent.

Manou weighs in on women's marathon selection chaos

Athletics Australia statement

Athletics Australia acknowledges the difficult task of Olympic nomination and selection where there are more athletes qualified than positions available. In the case of the Women's Marathon for Paris 2024, Australia had six athletes meet the qualification standard but can only select three.

The depth in women's marathon in Australia is to be applauded and is unprecedented and in previous years, selection has been much more straightforward.

As an Olympian, I have seen decades of Olympic teams selected and it is not unusual for there to be debate over decisions of a selection panel such as Athletics Australia's independent and expert body of selectors, and an appeals process exists for this reason.

We understand this can be distressing for athletes who miss selection and these matters are often highly charged, however the independent body of selectors is made up of industry experts, who understand Athletics Australia's nomination policy and the nuances of the sport.

Athletics Australia president Jane Flemming.

As President of Athletics Australia, we respect and support our independent selection panel as well as their expertise and experience, and we are satisfied that the policy was followed when selecting athletes to be nominated for the Women's marathon in Paris. We are also extremely content with the process whereby athletes and coaches were briefed on the policy including a public forum with the opportunity to ask questions and clarify the selection criteria.

To date, some media and social media commentary regarding this selection has been baseless, unfounded and damaging to the sport and individuals involved. Any allegations that Athletics Australia or Athletics Australia's selection panel has not acted with integrity is also defamatory, and simply not true.

We also ask that respect is shown to all six athletes who have qualified, and to rightly celebrate the three who will soon be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

Our deepest sympathy goes to those athletes that have not been selected for Paris. Athletes have trained for countless hours and dedicated their lives to this point, but with only three spots available, selectors rely on the selection criteria, which includes a combination of metrics and discretion, given that each marathon and the conditions in which they are raced are all different.

Athletics Australia's selection panel will continue to apply the nomination policy for the marathon and other Paris 2024 disciplines, as approved by the Australian Olympic Committee, and in due course and after due process, the AOC will announce the Australian Team selections.

Jane Flemming OLY


Athletics Australia

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