Henderson withdraws from Commonwealth Games over health concerns
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Henderson withdraws from Commonwealth Games over health concerns

by Shane Stokes at 4:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
New Zealand rider becomes fifth Team Sky rider to withdraw

Greg HendersonGreg Henderson has joined several Team Sky teammates in deciding to pull out of the Commonwealth Games. The sprinter is the latest rider to consider the risks of travelling to Delhi has being too much to take, saying that he is making the decision after talking to those closest to him.

“It's about my family. I've got to think about my wife (former Australian cyclist Katie Mactier) and little girl Charlie,” he said in a statement. “They don't want me going to the Commonwealth Games.”

Several problems have become apparent in India, including dirty conditions and unfinished construction in the athlete’s village, the risk of disease due to recent monsoons and also the threat of terrorism. Photos of the athletes’ s quarters have been released on several news sites, and these pictures have ramped up concerns of risks to the sportspeople in question.

One set of photos on the BBC website shows animal footprints on mattresses, appearing to corroborate stories that dogs have been sleeping on the beds that the athletes are supposed to use.

The pictures also included filthy bathrooms, broken pathways and exposed wiring.

Henderson said that these images played a part in his deliberations. “I have seen those and heard a few stories. It was a combination of those photos and sitting down with Katie that really made my final decision,” he explained. He previously won the points race in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and also has racked up three bronze medals.

Henderson was set to travel to the Games in strong form. He won a stage and finished third overall in last week’s Tour of Britain, and was looking forward to the competition. The 34 year old is the latest Team Sky rider to pull out. It was confirmed yesterday that the English duo Ian Stannard and Ben Swift had decided not to travel, along with Welshman Geraint Thomas, a likely track medallist, and the Manxman Peter Kennaugh.

Kennaugh’s withdrawal was accompanied by news stories claiming that he was following a team directive, but Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford later said that this was not true.

“These situations are down to the choice of the athletes themselves. We at Team Sky can make recommendations to the athletes but the ultimate decision lies with them.

“Given the situation they have found themselves in with the Commonwealth Games, nobody would blame the athletes for staying away, but there is no instruction from Team Sky on this issue. We at Team Sky will support them in whatever decision they make.”

Sportspeople from other disciplines have also started to pull out of the Games, raising fears that it could be cancelled. The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council released a statement yesterday saying that it was studying the situation, but that no decision had been taken.

“At present, the original departure date of Monday 27th September is still valid,” it read. “Until a more detailed report is available from our representatives in India, we will continue supporting our athletes and working towards this planned departure.”

The Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said India shouldn’t have been awarded the Games. “I don't think it is a cultural thing. When you agree to host [a Games] you are required to provide the basics in terms of health and hygiene for the athletes,” he stated. “The Games shouldn't have been awarded to Delhi, in hindsight.”


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