Rower Claims UK Athletics Chief Trying To Hide Own Failures

A member of the British rowing team has strongly refuted claims made by the UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos, who ascribed some of the success Britain had at the London 2012 in rowing, cycling and sailing to “technological doping.”

Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell, a Rio 2016 hopeful who won a world silver medal last year in the British men’s eight, defended the position of rowing on his personal website and described the views of the UK Athletics chief as “ill-informed comments” which are “insulting” to rowers. Vos made the comments before students at his former Oxford University college, Keble.

Vos defended his position by saying that he made the point and perhaps it was an ill-chosen phrase, that one of the reasons we do well in certain sports is possibly because we have the financial wherewithal to achieve a level that others cannot. The UK Athletics chief executive added that there are some sports where certain well-applied financial modals can bring you a certain advantage and his point was that it does not apply in athletics as it is very, very hard to achieve that.

Reilly-O’Donnell responded to the comments by saying that this is not the first (or last) time a representative of athletics will look down at other Olympic sports and criticize the success as being ‘niche’ or due to unfair advantages but the chief executive of UK track and field should appreciate that sport goes beyond running and that the use of equipment and skills allow for a wider competitive environment. Reilly-O’Donnell further remarked that he does not have the data, knowledge, or expertise to comment on the funding tree of UK Sport but he will contest disparaging comments levelled at ultimately more successful program and said ‘technological doping’ is pretty much impossible in rowing. He also remarked that rowing boats and equipment have barely changed after a flurry of permitted innovation in the 50s/60s and rules upon innovation are highly restrictive and almost irrelevant due to the ‘commercially available’ rule.

The world governing body of rowing (FISA) provides significant funds to developing nations, with cash for equipment ring-fenced, said the rower and went on to say that for De Vos to declare to a room that rowing only got where it was due to having loads of money to buy stuff ‘no one else can get’ is insulting to all the athletes that bury themselves 20 days out of 21, from 7:30am-4pm in a sport with very little individual recognition and no financial reward – that is pure sporting commitment. Track cycling has had technology related criticism levelled at it (more so in Beijing than London) after a spurt of innovation, but cycling has always been, and continues to be, highly regulated and restrictive, rower Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell said and added that this would not be the last time such criticism is propagated by those in athletics, and I’d argue that athletics’ ad hoc success is indicative of this victim type mentality. “We all want UKA to succeed, but you don’t get any better by talking down your Olympic colleagues,” said Reilly-O’Donnell.

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