A group of British athletes are considering legal action against UK Athletics after being denied places at next month’s World Championships.
Up to 20 of the country’s track and field stars will receive invites from World Athletics to compete in Budapest by virtue of their world ranking.
However, UKA will not pick them based on their own selection policy, which largely discounts rankings and requires athletes to have hit the World Athletics qualification mark or, in some cases, their own selection standard.
Subsequently, some of the affected British athletes are consulting lawyers about their options. Shot putter Amelia Strickler, one of those who has had her invite for Budapest rejected, has told Mail Sport she would be willing to join a class action.
‘I genuinely think a lot of people will band together for it,’ said the 29-year-old ahead of Friday’s squad announcement. ‘I hope it does come to that because something does need to be done to change this system because it is just hurting so many athletes.
‘It’s never something you want to do, but you get put in a situation where you feel like that’s your only option. By preventing us from going to championships, you are essentially denying us work, and that should be illegal. It could fall under blockage of trade. This could cost people sponsorships. It’s really disgusting.’
Strickler was also denied a spot at the 2019 World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 based on UKA’s same strict selection rules.
‘This is my third time having my invite rejected and it doesn’t get any easier,’ she said. ‘It hurts knowing you are one of the best in the world, but you are physically not allowed to go because of a bunch of people in a room say you are not good enough, even though the ranking system says you are. I’m really upset.’
Josh Zeller, who finished fifth in the 110metres hurdles final at last year’s World Championships, will also be denied a place by UKA despite being invited by World Athletics. He wrote on Instagram: ‘Going from being a world finalist last year to not even being able to compete in this year’s championships is truly disheartening.’
Another athlete set to be rejected, Lina Nielsen, the 400m hurdler, posted on social media: ‘To know that I’m deemed good enough to go to the world champs but that my federation will say no is world-shattering. My heart is heavy. I feel completely cheated.’
Strickler believes UKA’s refusal to take all invited athletes is down to the finances of the cash-strapped governing body. ‘They are just doing it to save money,’ she added. ‘They don’t want to pay for people who they think don’t have a chance of qualifying for a final or to get a medal.
‘But their decision goes against the World Athletics decision. They have made this system for a reason and 98 per cent of countries comply with it.
‘I have heard people say, “I wish I could pay for myself”, but that falls on the athlete. The federation should want to take qualified athletes. You never know what is going to happen on the day of competition.
‘To count people out before they’ve even made the startline, it’s not right and a real injustice in our sport. It would be great if World Athletics would say, “We are going to fine you if you don’t take your qualified athletes”.’
UKA sources insist the selection policy is based on athlete performance and not about finance, with funding to send teams to championships coming from UK Sport.