By Mike Rowbottom

Niels de Vos at press conferenceDecember 4 - Comments made by the UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos, who ascribed some of the success Britain had at the London 2012 in rowing, cycling and sailing to "technological doping", have been strongly refuted by a member of the British rowing team.

Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell, a Rio 2016 hopeful who won a world silver medal last year in the British men's eight, defended rowing's position on his personal website and described de Vos's views - given to students at his former Oxford University college, Keble and now to be found on the YouTube website - as "ill-informed comments" which are "insulting" to rowers.

De Vos has defended his position, maintaining: "I made the point, and perhaps it was an ill-chosen phrase, that one of the reasons we do well in certain sports is perhaps because we have the financial wherewithal to achieve a level that others can't.

"There are some sports where certain well-applied financial modals can bring you a certain advantage.

"My point was that it doesn't apply in athletics.

"It's very, very hard to achieve that."

But Reilly-O'Donnell responded: "It isn't the first (or last) time a representative of athletics will look down at other Olympic sports, criticising success as being 'niche' or due to unfair advantages...but surely the chief executive of UK track AND FIELD can appreciate that sport goes beyond running and that the use of equipment and skills allow for a wider competitive environment.

123256141Angry rower Nathaniel Reilly-O'Donnell claims that "technological doping" is not allowed to exist in his sport

"I don't have the data, knowledge or expertise to comment on UK Sport's funding tree, but I will contest disparaging comments levelled at ultimately more successful programmes.

"Technological doping' is pretty much impossible in rowing.

"After a flurry of permitted innovation in the 50s/60s, rowing boats and equipment have barely changed.

"Rules upon innovation are highly restrictive and almost irrelevant due to the 'commercially available' rule.

"There are a basically two elite boat builders (one German, one Italian) and [almost] everyone uses their standard equipment.

"Rowing's world governing body (FISA) provides significant funds to developing nations, with cash for equipment ring-fenced.

"So for De Vos to declare to a room that rowing only got where it was due to having loads of money to buy stuff 'no one else can get' is insulting to all the athletes that bury themselves 20 days out of 21, from 7:30am-4pm in a sport with very little individual recognition and no financial reward – that is pure sporting commitment.

"[A brief comment on cycling and sailing; track cycling has had technology related criticism levelled at it (more so in Beijing than London) after a spurt of innovation, but cycling has always been, and continues to be, highly regulated and restrictive.

"As far as I'm aware, in sailing everyone has the same make and design of boat, with only minimal, comfort-type adjustments available.

"De Vos' ill-informed comments smack of reactionary management clutching at straws.

"This won't be the last time such criticism is propagated by those in athletics, and I'd argue that athletics' ad hoc success is indicative of this victim type mentality.

"UK Athletics should be developing a system of success, where we have multiple individuals, year after year, fulfilling their capability and bringing home the bacon.

"Like cycling in the 90s, UKA produces success through exceptional individuals – almost irrelevant of the team around them.

"At the Games there were a half dozen talented track and field youngsters, I really hope that it wasn't a flash in the pan and that soon we can have five or six 'Mo Farahs' at every competition.

"We all want UKA to succeed, but you don't get any better by talking down your Olympic colleagues.

"One team, one dream."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
December 2012: Exclusive - Head of "department for walks in the woods" hits back at UK Athletics chief after YouTube jibe