Marathon runner seeks legal advice after what she believes was a flawed selection process

Charlotte Purdue has criticised UK Athletics after they used what she claims is inaccurate information during the selection meeting to pick marathon runners for the Tokyo Olympics.

Purdue lost out to Steph Twell despite her PB of 2:25:38 in London in 2019 being faster than Twell’s best of 2:26:40. Steph Davis gained an automatic place by winning the trials, with Jess Piasecki selected after running 2:25:28 to win the Florence Marathon in December 2019.

Neither Purdue, Twell nor Piasecki ran the trials race at Kew Gardens last month but Twell showed some fitness in a low-key 5000m on the track in 16:20.00 in the United States.

Purdue’s appeal has been rejected but she is getting legal advice and told BBC she was “shocked” by the decision, adding: “It wasn’t until I read the meeting notes, which I was given due to my appeal, where I saw someone in the meeting – and it doesn’t say who – that I was only running for 30 minutes and that I’m eight weeks away from full training (following an injury earlier in the winter).

“But last week I ran 83 miles and at the time of the meeting I was doing 75 minutes and doing a 6x1km session. My coach (Nic Bideau) provided that in an email to the selection meeting. So it just makes me really angry that, for one, the information wasn’t relayed correctly and, two, this ultimately led to me not being selected for the Olympics.”

At 31, Twell is two years older than Purdue and the pair were in the same training group for many years under Mick Woods at Aldershot, Farnham & District before going their separate ways.

The duo have been training partners and rivals for two decades and their races date back to 2004-05 when the older Twell beat Purdue to the South of England 1500m title.

Over the years Twell has built up a large win-loss advantage over Purdue but the younger athlete has won all five head-to-heads in the last 10 years including two half-marathons in 2019 at the Big Half and Great North Run.

Purdue’s half-marathon PB of 68:08 is also better than Twell’s 68:55 but Twell has significantly better PBs on the track from 1500m to 10,000m.

Also, Purdue will realise that “de-selecting” an athlete who has already been named for the Games would be unprecedented. Before London 2012 the British marathon runner Lee Merrien was added to the team after controversially being left out, but he did not actually replace anyone. There have also been cases of athletes stepping into a team to replace an injured runner.

“It’s really upsetting that the Olympics is every four years and it’s something I’ve been working for since the last one when I didn’t make the team,” Purdue continued in her BBC interview. “So I’ve another three years to wait really.

“I obviously don’t have anything against anyone who has been selected. It’s more just the selection process and lack of transparency from British Athletics. I did everything that I told them to and took longer off than I wanted to due to the fact they led me to believe that with the medical selection I would gain selection. So I feel as if I’ve been thrown under a bus now.”

In an interview with The Times, she said: “It just baffles me how they have reached this decision. I am concerned that I’ve not been selected because of Mickey Mouse evidence — false information that is not based on fact.

“I don’t want to make this personal. I don’t want to cost someone else a place in the team. But my coach made the point that the team should not have been announced until the appeal process had been completed. I have to challenge that. This is my career at stake.”

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