Australia suspends athletics head coach

Glasgow, July 31 (IANS) Australia's head coach here at the Commonwealth Games Eric Hollingsworth has been suspended by Athletics Australia (AA) after his outburst at Olympic gold medallist and team captain Sally Pearson.

Hollingsworth was harsh in criticising Pearson for her failure to attend the camp for the athletes before the Games here, saying her absence set a bad example for her teammates.

"Sally was coming all along until the last minute when she opted to take a race in London," Hollingsworth said in a statement, reports ABC.

"What's lost here is she's the team captain and there's a reasonable expectation she'd be in the camp ahead of something as major as the Commonwealth Games. Her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team."

But AA distanced itself from the criticism Thursday, disapproving Hollingsworth's statement at a time when he should be focusing on supporting the athletes.

"He acted without the authority of Athletics Australia and in contravention of the specific instructions of the chief executive officer," a statement read.

"Athletics Australia condemns in the strongest terms his disparaging comments about Sally Pearson and his timing."

Hollingsworth will remain suspended "until such time as the Athletics Australia board can convene to consider the matter".

AA president David Grace told media in Glasgow the AA board was deeply shocked and upset by Hollingsworth's comments and felt they had no alternative but to suspend him from his position as head coach.

"We had discussed his complaints with him and had directed him not to comment to the media," Grace said.

"We would discuss his complaints with him at a later time after the Games conclude."

Grace said: "Our primary focus, as you would expect, is ensuring that the environment that our athletes have is the optimum environment to focus on the competition."

"We don't need these distractions and the athletes don't need these distractions, and it is very unfortunate that it has happened."

T he AA president said, "We believe he may have breached his contract with Athletics Australia. We have taken the view that his position as head coach of Athletics Australia is untenable, and we believe we had no option but to suspend his employment until we return to Australia and conduct a full review."

Grace said AA was well aware Hollingsworth and Pearson had a less than stellar relationship.