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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Drummond takes centre stage

By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport at the Stade de France

It was the slowest 100m race the World Championships have ever seen.

Fifty one minutes after the gun first went, not a single athlete had crossed the finishing line.

We had expected high drama in the 100m, but that was supposed to be in the final, and the result of a spectacular battle between the world's best sprinters.

Instead, in the second quarter-final, we saw scenes of high farce turning to chaos as Jon Drummond suddenly, and to his enormous shock, found himself disqualified for a false start he thought he did not commit.

Drummond, a man so demonstrative he probably greets the arrival of the morning newspaper with a lap of honour, went into overdrive.

Jon Drummond is shown the red card after being disqualified
They are denying me my dream
Jon Drummond

First there was disbelief.

"I did not move," screamed the American sprinter, eyes bulging from his outraged face. "I did not move!"

Then, when confronted with the unarguable sight of an official brandishing a large red card in his face, came the histrionics.

To a deafening backdrop of whistles and boos from the 72,000-strong crowd, he lay down on the track, put his arms behind his head, and waited.

The official followed him, holding the red card out in front of him like a dirty piece of toilet paper. Thus started a stand-off that began as laughable but soon became embarrassing.

The television screens in the media seats cut to the warm-up track, and the sight of John Smith, Drummond's coach, going ballistic.

Silently he raged at his own TV monitor. Beside him stood Linford Christie, who famously also refused to accept a disqualification for a false start, in his case in the Olympic final of 1996.

Christie too was shouting, though whether in support of Drummond or against you could not tell.

Drummond eventually dragged himself to his feet. Abruptly, the crowd's mood switched.

Convinced by the replays they had seen on the giant screens, which failed to show that Drummond's right foot had indeed twitched in the blocks, they yelled abuse at the hapless officials.

Drummond, his sense of righteousness bolstered, strode back to his mark, waving his arms at the stands, adamant he would race.

Michael Johnson
The problem is what do we do when we have an idiot on the track?
Michael Johnson

It was not to be. With a fudge of truly world championship proportions, the officials decided to postpone the heat.

In the privacy of the dressing-rooms, Drummond was persuaded by US athletics chiefs to accept the decision - he was out.

Up in the commentary box, Michael Johnson was furious with the behaviour of his old American team-mate.

"He knows the rules, and the IAAF should have something in place for this kind of situation," he said.

"If somebody won't go off, they should be escorted off by security. He has disrupted the entire competition.

"The rules work. The problem is what we do when we have an idiot athlete on the track. It is very distasteful.

"He should be penalised for embarrassing the sport. It is absolutely ridiculous. It is embarrassing for athletics."

Out on the warm-up track, Drummond was inconsolable. He flopped in the arms of Smith, the coach he shares with Maurice Greene and Ato Bolden, and cried like a child who has just been told Christmas has been cancelled.

At one point he fell to the floor, arms flung across his face. Smith hauled him up and emptied a bottle of water over his athlete's head.

Less than 100m away, inside the stadium, the race was finally being run without him 51 minutes after it had been scheduled to take place.

"I didn't come here for this," he sobbed.

"I didn't pass the line - it's faulty equipment. They are denying me my dream."

In his first round heat, Drummond had entertained the crowd by miming putting a gun against his head, pulling the trigger and falling down dead.

A few hours later, he would commit professional suicide in just as public a fashion.

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