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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sean Ingle

CJ Ujah to be considered for Britain’s 4x100m relay return after doping ban

CJ Ujah at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
CJ Ujah at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Team GB lost their silver medals after he tested positive for two banned substances Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

CJ Ujah will be welcomed back into Britain’s 4x100m relay squad if he runs fast enough to earn selection after his doping ban, UK Athletics’ new technical director, Stephen Maguire, has confirmed. However, Maguire admitted there may need to be mediation with Ujah and some of his teammates to make sure “they are on the same page”.

Ujah ran the lead leg when Team GB’s relay men won silver at last year’s Olympic Games only to test positive for two banned substances, which led to him receiving a 22-month ban and the team being stripped of their medals.

What complicates Maguire’s decision is that while some in the relay squad have publicly forgiven Ujah, one of them, Richard Kilty, called his behaviour “sloppy and reckless” and said he would never do so.

Asked whether he felt comfortable in selecting Ujah, who will be free to run again in June after being cleared of intentionally taking banned drugs, Maguire said: “It’s not just me. It’s the British Athletics stance on things. If he’s available to compete we will select him.

“I haven’t spoken to CJ in a couple of years, but he made a mistake and that’s clear. So it’s looking at that environment and where it all fits. Hopefully things go easy for CJ in coming back and we’re in a position where it would be great to have that choice in selecting CJ.”

The well-respected Maguire has first-hand experience of Britain’s relay squads, having been the brains behind the world championship gold medal in 2017 and multiple other triumphs. When asked whether Ujah’s inclusion would require mediation, he said: “In the past when we’ve had issues with a practice going wrong, a dropped baton, there’s always that element you have to address.

“Yes is the word because we have to reaffirm where we’re at, and are we all on the same page? I’d be surprised if – although I’m not sure mediation is the right word – if we didn’t have conversations about this is how it’s going to look.

“But relays are an interesting one, as it isn’t just about running fast. It’s about trust, behaviour and understanding the team aspect. I need to see what the environment is like. And CJ, first of all, has to run fast.”

Maguire’s appointment has been widely welcomed by those in the sport after a rocky few years for UKA on and off the track. He urged athletes to be frank with him as he pledged to focus on success, stability and honesty.

“Am I expecting everybody to be telling me that this is all roses and sunshine and everything like that? No. I think to move forward, I want them to be honest about the problems. What they’ll get for me is someone who will definitely listen, definitely understand the issues and try to fix it.”

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