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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Steffensen racially vilified in Beijing

Steffensen racially vilified in Beijing

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1 Steffensen racially vilified in Beijing on Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:13 am



Steffensen 'racially vilified' in Beijing

By Daniel Lane
Sydney Morning Herald
July 22, 2012

OUTSPOKEN Olympian John Steffensen has added more fuel to the racism firestorm in Australian athletics by revealing not only that was he the victim of a racial slur by a team official during the 2008 Beijing Olympics but he needed to bunk in another nation's quarters during the Games.

Steffensen's tirade on Channel Nine last week after teenager Steve Solomon was named ahead of him to run in the individual 400m event at London made international headlines after he claimed: ''I've put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams.''

The 2006 Commonwealth Games champion said the decision to select Solomon, who - like Steffensen - had posted a B-qualifying standard time, was unfair on a number of fronts, age discrimination included. He then suggested his treatment from Athletics Australia would have been different over the years ''if I was a different skin colour''.

When contacted by The Sun-Herald during the week, Steffensen - who has South African heritage - said it was not the first time he had been treated as an outcast by his sporting body. He claimed that apart from being addressed by such offensive terms such as ''jungle bunny'' and ''nigger'', an AA official had racially abused him after he was booted out of the room he was sharing with Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker in Beijing.

''I was rooming with Steve Hooker and for some reason one of the athletics officials started abusing me and [while] it had racial connotations I didn't pay any attention to it at the time,'' he said. ''When I went to training they took my stuff out of Steve's room and put it in the common area. My bag, my supplements, my laptop was broken … this, from my officials in Beijing. One official from Athletics Australia put all my gear in the common area and when I came back from training late at night I didn't have a room to stay in. When I went to confront the official he was sleeping - and Steve Hooker witnessed this - [the official] woke up and abused me.

''All I did was laugh at the guy when I could've punched him in the face. [Hooker] said he didn't understand how I kept control. Nothing was ever done about that. In fact, I got a letter to say my conduct at the Olympic Games was not right. That was the breaking point. I thought, 'How could my team so disrespect me?' My laptop was broken, my bags were open with clothes spilling out of them … That night I stayed with the Belize team, I didn't stay with the Australian team. I have it all documented with my lawyers.''

Steffensen realised as a contracted AA athlete he faced possible action under a series of clauses which concerned bringing the sport into disrepute. However, he cited ''truth'' as a solid defence.

''I did not say [the Solomon] decision was solely because I was black,'' he said. ''I'm smarter than that. I said in the teams in the past I have been racially vilified which means I have been called names 'nigger' and 'jungle bunny' by officials and athletes. It happened to me and I'm frustrated with it.

''What's most important is I'm open to punishment on an open forum Australia-wide. I took a risk saying things the general public might not be ready to hear. I think that's the biggest punishment because I only started the sport to be the best I possibly could and to represent my country at the highest level.''

When The Sun-Herald contacted AA chief executive Dallas O'Brien yesterday for his views on the Steffensen case he was surprised the matter was still being reported on. He said Steffensen did not face sanctioning but admitted, despite the inflammatory nature of Steffensen's spray, he had not yet spoken to him. ''No, I haven't spoken to him directly,'' he said. ''Eric Hollingsworth, our high performance manager, has and he's been reporting to me. We [all] just want to drop the whole thing and get on with it.'' Steffensen said he had received support from indigenous athletes who had said via text such things as ''the environment in this country was the wrong one for me''.

Nova Peris, the first Aborigine to win an Olympic gold medal as a member of the Hockeyroos before she swapped sports and won a Commonwealth Games gold medal as a runner, told The Sun-Herald she hadn't followed the drama closely enough to make a comment because she'd needed to deal with a number of other issues, including the recent death of her ex-husband, and Olympian, Daniel Batman.

However, in her biography which was released in 2003, she raised concerns about the way in which AA handled a case which involved her and a male athlete who'd constantly referred to her in public as ''nigger''. She signed a form which ensured details of the mediation remained private, but wrote the experience left a bad taste in her mouth.

2 Re: Steffensen racially vilified in Beijing on Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:34 am


This report makes me sick. Absolutely disgusting that in this moden era we have officials in AA who have racially vilified an athlete.

Up until now I had been sceptical of Steffensen's racial vilification allegations as they had been generalisations, that Steffensen claimed "no-one wants to know about".

I could not fathom anyone in AA being stupid enough to treat someone differently on the basis of skin color.

But Steffensen has made some extremely serious allegations here.

This cannot be swept unde the carpet. It needs to be thoroughly investigated and if found to be true, the persons concerned need to be made accountable and 'relieved' of any official duties.

This will be a test of Dallas O'Brien's leadership qualities. He cannot ignore these allegations, regardless of how old the incidents are. AA will be regarded a a racist organization until it has dealt with this once and fo all.

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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