British 5,000m runner Andrew Butchart could miss the Olympics after apparently claiming he falsified a negative Covid test to get back to the UK after a race.
A UK athletics the investigation was launched on Tuesday, 33 minutes after he was appointed to the Team GB team for Tokyo, when his comments to the Sunday Plodcast on how to circumvent a PCR test emerged. England athletics head coach Christian Malcolm later warned Butchart that “all options remained on the table” – including being withdrawn from the British team – subject to what the investigation found.
“We take this matter very seriously,” Malcolm said. “We just have to wait and see what the investigation is and what the consequences – if it does not work in his favor – will be. But all options are on the table at the moment. ”
Malcolm confirmed that a decision would be made before July 7, the last date on which the British team could be changed. “I think the important thing is to try to investigate and find out what really happened, what was really said, what was the point of it,” he said. “So we’ll just have to wait for the results.”
The investigation came after Butchart, who finished sixth at the 5,000 meters at the Rio Olympics, talked about what he had done to allow himself to return to the UK from a race abroad. “I’m not getting into trouble with the police or anything like that,” Butchart said.
“You have to get a Covid test to get into the UK, so you went to a place to get a PCR test within 48 hours – and I’m at check-in and I do not have my PCR test left. So you have to quickly, like, get an old PCR test, go on to Instagram, fuck climb out the time and date, change the time and date and change it so you can get into the country. Clearly, Covid is huge, but it’s pretty annoying. All are fake PCR tests, I’m sure I’m trying to go somewhere because it’s just that hard. ”
After becoming aware of Butchart’s comments in the podcast, which have now been deleted, UKA launched an investigation and suggested that his choice of Tokyo was now in balance. “Throughout the pandemic, elite sports have been privileged to receive exceptions to various guidelines to enable athletes to continue training and competing,” the governing body said.
“We take very seriously any suggestion that an athlete has not followed these guidelines correctly and violated any Covid-related protocols. As a result, this choice will be subject to further investigation by UK Athletics. ”
It is understood that there is anger across the sport over Butchart’s comments, as it could hurt the perception in Japan about Team GB athletes. It also comes at a sensitive time as the UK is one of 10 countries whose athletes and journalists are subject to more stringent restrictions in Japan due to the proliferation of the Delta variant.
On Tuesday, Butchart rummaged back at his comments, telling the Times: “I never falsified it, the test came through on time, but I’ve heard rumors of others falsifying tests.” He later said in a statement: “I have never falsified a PCR test and have always adhered to the guidelines of the countries I have traveled to.
“I might have glorified the situation for the podcast, but I apologize if it went the wrong way or caused any harm to anyone, especially Team GB and the Japanese organizing committee, which I know work so hard to make the games safe for everyone. ”
Meanwhile, UK Athletics has announced that a further 65 athletes will travel to Tokyo and take the team up to 72. They include Dina Asher-Smith, running in the 100m and 200mand Laura Muir, who doubles in the 800m and 1500m. World Champion in pentathlon, Katarina-Johnson Thompson, is also in the team despite not competing this year due to a serious Achilles injury.
“KJT has been back for several weeks, months and is training now, so for her she will do a competition within the next week or so in Montpellier,” said Malcolm. “This is where she can prove her condition.
“I spoke to her this morning and she is really happy with her progression, training and where she is. She is really comfortable. Mentally, she works in a really good room. ”