Feud between Greene and Americans intensifies

USA’s Bershawn Jackson hits back at world 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene

Dai Greene and Bershawn Jackson (Mark Shearman)

A heated rivalry in sport can often be a good thing, but so too can a clear mind – especially when you step on the startline at the world’s biggest sporting event.

World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene may have a little more to cope with than simply the pressure of competing in front of a home crowd when he takes to the track at the London Olympics. He may have to deal with the potential confrontation from two of the USA’s biggest stars.

Last month in an interview with the Daily Mail, Greene said that he’d happily accost Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, who has recently served a ban after testing positive for Dehydroepiandrosterone.

“If I’m in the relay team and we reach the final then there’s every chance we’ll be lining up against Merritt,” said Greene. “I’ll tell you now, I’ll happily go and find him at the start and tell him to his face, ‘You’re a cheat and you shouldn’t be here’.

“I’ll be so motivated, so pumped up by his very presence in the race that I’d do anything I could to find myself up against him in the same leg of the relay, no matter what leg it would be.

“Let’s be honest. It won’t be a surprise if I’m in the relay team, it won’t be a surprise if he’s running for the Americans and it won’t be a surprise if we’re against each other in the semis or the final. So it’s likely I’ll get my chance to do this. And if I do, I’ll take it.”

Strong words that divided opinion in the athletics world. Some defended Greene, arguing that Merritt is indeed a cheat. But others were unconvinced, wary of the fact that when Merritt’s case was brought to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the panel stated that there was an “absence of intention to gain an advantage over competitors“.

The official line was that there was no intention to cheat and that the substance showed up in Merritt’s sample because he had bought an over-the-counter male enhancement product.

Merritt did not publicly respond, but just as the dust began to settle, former world 400m hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson lashed out at Greene in an interview with the Fast Life Show.

“Greene said he knew we weren’t going to medal, we were too overrated. What does he mean by being ‘overrated?’ I don’t know. You’re talking about a guy who won the Worlds in 48.2,” said Jackson, who finished almost a second behind Greene in Daegu.

“It’s going to be really difficult for him in his country to stop the Americans from coming and sweeping in 2012. He wrote a check that he can’t cash and I’m coming. You’re going to know I’m in the race.

“I’m upset about it and hope that the other Americans are upset about it. If they’re not, I’m going to remind them when it comes to press conference time. Now you got to stand up to what you said. Now you have a target on your back.”

The debate continued on twitter, with Jackson tweeting Greene: “I don’t take nothing from Dai and what he has accomplish [sic]. He was the better man that day. But don’t talk bad about me in the press conference when I always had nothing but good things to say about you.”

Jackson was referring to the post-race press conference at the World Championships, a video of which can be seen on YouTube. But nowhere during that interview did Greene ever use the term “overrated” when talking about the American 400m hurdlers, nor did he single anyone out.

“The Americans haven’t really been dominating on the circuit this year,” said Greene. “LJ (van Zyl) has been fantastic earlier on in the season and it is nice to see fresh faces on the scene. Not fresh faces but people who aren’t just American for a change. It just shows that the rest of the world is catching up.

“The 400m hurdles is a very open event at the moment,” he added. “There were a lot of guys in the hunt for the medals, but it’s very good for the sport and it’s very good for the event that there are so many people in contention. I think it’s a good thing that it’s not just the usual faces at the top. In a few years you might be talking to us three again, asking us about how the Americans can never get a medal.”

The pair are due to clash as soon as next month when they compete in the 400m hurdles at the Rome Diamond League meeting on May 31 – a dual that could be even more mouth-watering than the Usain Bolt vs Asafa Powell 100m showdown at the same meeting.

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