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Red tape destroys cancer victim's running dream

PUBLISHED: 11:11 22 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:54 12 August 2010

A CANCER stricken athlete is devastated after race officials refused to let him take part in a competition he had dreamed of winning while he was in hospital, writes Kate Nelson. The only thing that helped Petts Wood runner Jason Hussain keep his spirits

A CANCER stricken athlete is devastated after race officials refused to let him take part in a competition he had dreamed of winning while he was in hospital, writes Kate Nelson.

The only thing that helped Petts Wood runner Jason Hussain keep his spirits up while languishing on a chemotherapy drip was his determination to make it back on to the track.

Both his coach and doctors were proven wrong when Mr Hussain was fit enough to compete in the South of England Indoor Championships last Saturday after battling testicular cancer since June. He had finished chemotherapy just 20 days before.

But the sprinter's chances of competing were dashed after his entry form for the important competition got lost in the post and race officials refused to let him take part.

He said: "I'm absolutely devastated. They know who I am because my story has appeared in athletics magazines and they knew how much it meant to me.

"It went to committee and I got my hopes up thinking they would say yes, I mean, how could they say no? It is so heartless."

It is important for athletes to have a recent proven record of good times in order to be picked for teams. Mr Hussain does not have a recent recorded time, meaning he now loses out on selection for the Inter-Cities Challenge match this weekend, of which he is reigning champion.

His coach John Powell, who overcame three bouts of cancer 17 years ago, said: "Jason is devastated. All that kept him going through a living nightmare last summer was running again.

"He was absolutely focused on this race and I explained to the officials that I had watched him complete and post his entry but my pleas fell on deaf ears. They e-mailed and phoned virtually the whole regional committee but nobody was willing to have a bit of compassion and bend the rules.

"I doubt there is a soul in athletics that would have begrudged Jason a lane on Saturday. Instead I am left to pick up the pieces with an athlete who now feels as if his world has fallen apart.

"You can't underestimate what the body goes through when you have chemo. Mental toughness is what it's all about but I guess if you are an athletics official that doesn't matter."

A spokesperson for the South of England Athletics Association said: "We never received Jason's entry form. We are very sympathetic to his situation but we cannot let people compete if we have not received a form, it opens up a can of worms.

"We advise all our athletes to send entries by recorded delivery and not to leave it until the last minute. We let Jason run in a race the week previously with no form and people got hauled over the coals for it so we couldn't let him run this time." katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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