Andy Butchart may be stripped of his spot in the British athletics team for the Tokyo Olympics after the Scottish record holder in the men’s 5000 metres was caught up in allegations that he falsified a Covid test result to allow him to board an international flight to return to the UK.
The 29-year-old from Dunblane was one of 12 Scots unveiled in a 72-strong squad yesterday following affirmation of his selection with second place at last weekend’s track and field trials in Manchester.
However just prior to the official announcement, bizarre claims emerged of Butchart seemingly telling a running podcast that he had been forced to alter the results of a previous PCR test in order to travel.
And officials from UK Athletics and the British Olympic Association, both understood to be taking the matter very seriously, confirmed his selection is now “subject to further investigation.”
UK Athletics Olympic head coach Christian Malcolm underlined: “Obviously it’s going through a process and an investigation at this moment in time. We’re extremely privileged to have some of these exemptions for us to be able to be able to travel and to be able to train and so we take this matter very seriously.
“We’ve just got to wait to find out the findings from what the investigation is and whatever the consequences, if it doesn’t work in his favour, will be. But all options are on the table at the moment.”
The podcast episode was deleted prior to the revelations but The Times published a transcript from The Sunday Plodcast which alleged that Butchart was at an airport check-in but still awaiting a testing certificate. “So you have to quickly, like, get an old PCR test,” he reportedly said, “go on to Instagram, f***ing scribble out the time and the date, change the time and the date, and like change it so you can get into the country.
“Obviously Covid is huge but it’s quite annoying. Having to deal with all the testing and protocols, blah, blah, blah, it’s a ball ache. Everybody has faked PCR tests, I’m sure, to try and go somewhere, because it’s just so hard.”
Having already returned to his training base in southern France, Butchart – who came sixth in the Olympic final in 2016 – firmly refuted that he has ever broken any rules but knew of others who have. “I have never falsified a PCR test and have always complied with the guidelines of the countries I have been travelling in,” he said. “The context of the podcast was about how hard it has been for athletes during the pandemic to travel and race due as you are depending on lots of factors that are out of your control.
“I used the example of athletes I know having to use previous PCR results to get through check in but not immigration. To confirm I have not done this but know of people who have.”
It rubs against huge sensitivities within the British Olympic Association which has undertaken delicate diplomatic negotiations around travel protocols with Tokyo 2020 organisers and the Japanese government. The UK is among ten countries whose athletes, support staff and media must adhere to more strenuous restrictions upon arrival at the Games next month due to the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus.
“I perhaps glorified the situation for the podcast,” Butchart added. “But I apologise if it came across the wrong way or causes any offence to anyone, in particular Team GB and the Japanese Organising Committee who I know are working so hard to make the Games safe for everyone.”