The United States’ Nick Symmonds could miss the world athletics championships in Beijing later this month because of a sponsors’ row.
The world 800m runner up, has refused to sign a USA Track and Field contract which requires all athletes to sign by Sunday to be officially named on the team.
Symmonds expects to be sitting at home when the worlds start because of a feud over what he can and cannot wear during the trip to Beijing.
“I don’t think USATF is bluffing,” Symmonds told AP on Sunday night. “I think they’re dumb enough to leave me home.”
The issue is Nike’s standing as USATF’s official uniform sponsor. Anyone going to China on the US team is required to wear Nike gear at all team functions.
Symmonds is sponsored by rival shoe company Brooks and wants it clearly spelled out what constitutes a team function.
He says he’s willing to skip the trip to China, which would likely cost the United States in the medal table, but could also cost him prizemoney.
The 31-year-old US 800m champion, who is training in Seattle, said it was a fight worth fighting.
“You just can’t give a monopoly to a company and expect there to be a healthy, viable sport,” Symmonds said. “It’s never going to change unless someone makes a stand.
“It’s unfortunate that’s going to have to be me. It’s unfortunate it might leave me off the team to Beijing. But it’s time to wrestle some of our power back from USATF, because they’ve taken a lot of it.”
In a statement, USATF said the organisation “respect(s) Nick and whatever decision he makes,” but the language of the contract is the language.
“It is the industry standard across all sports that there are certain requirements for when a team uniform and apparel must be worn,” the statement said. “Those specifications may vary from sport to sport, but all sports and teams have them.
“We all make our best efforts to balance athletes’ personal interests with those of the sport, federation and team. Often times those interests are aligned, and sometimes they conflict.”
Symmonds won the 800 at the national championships in June, finishing in a time of 1 minute, 44.53 seconds.
He elected to skip lucrative competitions in Europe to focus on training at home, just to be in tiptop shape for Beijing. He feels like he’s in peak condition, maybe even better than when he captured silver at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.
“Now I don’t even get to realise this fitness, which is terrible,” he said. “My hands are tied right now. If I’m on the team, I’ve got my visa, my passport and my bags are packed. I’m good to go.
“If I’m not on the team, I’m going to sit down and have a chat with my lawyer.”