Britain’s leading shot putter Mark Edwards last night criticised inconsistencies in selection policy and announced his immediate retirement after failing to win a call up for the Olympic Games.
The Birchfield Harrier, who has twice thrown the qualifying distance and who finished second in last Sunday’s trials, appeared to have done everything necessary to make it to Beijing next month but has been harshly overlooked for the second time in his career.
Edwards also missed out in 2000 when he threw the A standard needed to make it to Sydney, only to see Mark Proctor, 12 years his senior, taken instead. And once again this year he has twice exceeded the 20.30 metres demanded of him and at the weekend come runner up at the Alexander Stadium.
But this time UK Athletics are taking neither Edwards, nor Sunday’s victor Carl Myerscough, who is banned from attending after serving a two-year ban for testing positive for steroids in 1999, and that has left him ‘gutted’.
“I am so disappointed,” Edwards said. “I was told I have not fulfilled the selection criteria. In their opinion I do not have multiple A standards.
“But they are picking people in other events on B standards. In my opinion there does not seem to be a consistency in selection. I had a lawyer go over my case but was told there was no point in taking it any further.”
Edwards does not agree with that. His personal best of 20.88m which he achieved in June, is far in excess of the requirement as is the effort of 20.70m he produced in Nottingham in April.
UKA, however, are not accepting that first distance because it was not at a sanctioned event although Edwards maintains the conditions were exactly the same as at a higher-profile meet.
“I have thrown the A standard twice, though only once in their view, my third best throw is just 5cm short of another A standard, I have thrown over 20m in four or five different competitions and I’m ranked 14th in the world. I really thought I had done enough to warrant selection,” he continued.
“I don’t see any point in being so highly ranked if you cannot go to a championships and put yourself on the line. It is OK people having their opinions about whether you can do it or not but if they are not prepared to give you a chance they will never know.
“I cannot help but feel there are personal issues there. All you can do is put your faith in these people and hope that they judge things fairly. Unfortunately I am in an unusual position that I work for UK Athletics so I can’t say too much.”
A cruel irony for Edwards is that he will go to Beijing anyway but in his capacity as throws coach to the Paralympic squad and not to test himself against the biggest names in the sport.
As a result he has decided to call time on a career that made him an international many times over and brought him considerable success in national and international arenas.
“I was going to retire at the end of this year anyway,” he said.
“I am 33 and my body is starting to hurt. It’s just brought that forward, there is no point stringing it out.
“There’s nothing to carry on for. It’s a sad way to end but I had an inclination on Sunday because during drugs testing there were people completing forms relating to the Olympics, I was not one of them.”