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Aussie relay team urged to hand back medals

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, Mar 28 (Reuters) The Australian 4x400m women's relay team should hand back the Commonwealth Games gold medals they were awarded after their protest led to England being disqualified, one of Australia's most respected athletes said.

Ron Clarke, who set 18 world records in middle and long distance events during the 1950s and 1960s, called on Jana Pittman, Caitlin Willis, Rosemary Hayward and Tamsyn Lewis to hand the medals back as an act of sportsmanship.

England easily won the relay final ahead of Australia but were disqualified on a minor technicality after their third runner, Natasha Danvers Smith, had been standing in the wrong order at a changeover.

England were already in front and gained no obvious advantage but the Australians lodged a protest, which saw them awarded the gold and England disqualified.

''I am absolutely appalled by what went on and frankly our girls should never have accepted the medal,'' Clarke told today's edition of Daily Telegraph.

''How can they accept a gold medal when they were out-raced? They should give their gold medals to England without hesitation.'' Australian Athletics officials defended the decision by the athletes to protest, saying England would have been disqualified anyway because the rule breach had already been picked up by track officials.

But Clarke said the rule should be changed.

''They applied the rules but it's poor sportsmanship,'' he said.

''What would've happened if the Australians had won clearly and the English protested... in order to get a gold medal? ''We would've become a republic.'' Clarke, who lit the cauldron at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics but never won an Olympic gold medal, currently serves as mayor of Gold Coast.

REUTERS PM KP1100

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