Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 at 11:00 am and is filed under Archive | 0

When half a dozen athletes were selected by England Athletics to run in a half-marathon in Lillebaelt, Denmark on May 7 this year, they were looking forward to a race without the all-conquering East Africans. Things turned out even better than they expected – all six of them placed highly, and all won prize money. Toby Lambert won the men’s race, which carried a prize of 15000 Danish kroner, around £1750 or $2700.

Justina Heslop was second in the women’s race, which netted her 10,000DKK; James Smith and Emily Wicks were third in their respective races, winning 5000DKK; while Sarah Stradling was fourth (3000DKK), and Michael Aspinall fifth (2000DKK). Total prize money between them was 40,000DKK, around £4,700 (over $7000).

They were told they would receive their prize money within two weeks at latest. The team was so taken with the big cardboard cheques that they were photographed with, they all brought them home.

Now for the bad news. Those cardboard cheques might be all that they get.

Yes, you guessed it. Their team manager, on behalf of England Athletics, was Ian Ladbrooke, who has already admitted to debts of $330,000 owed, mostly to Third World athletes (see Road Rage).

(photo below is of Ladbrooke posing with James Smith’s cardboard cheque)

When the two weeks and more elapsed without any sign of prize money, Smith began a telephone and email exchange with Ladbrooke, which raised his suspicions. “I’d already heard rumours about his reliability,” Smith said by phone on Tuesday, “It turned out he was lying to me throughout”.

In an earlier email, Smith had written, ‘Your article spurred me on to do some more digging’. A subsequent email from Smith detailed the timeline of calls and emails to Ladbrooke, and ended with, ‘14th Sept, contacted Mads Stryhn (Lillebaelt race organiser) who confirmed that the money had been transferred to Ian Ladbroke about a week after the event, before I began my attempts to chase the money’.

Justina Heslop is particularly upset, since she has had to give up regular work to care for someone. “I’m going through a hard time in my life at the moment,” she said by phone on Tuesday, “and Ian knew all about it. I really choose my races carefully, because I need the money. He was really sympathetic, and now he’s done this to us.

“I contacted him by email several times, and it was always, ‘it’s coming, it’s coming (the money)’. I’ve always liked him, but I’d heard the rumours. In fact, at a race in Berlin over two years ago now, the team manager just casually said in conversation one day, ‘Is anyone owed any money by Ian Ladbrooke?’ I wasn’t, but it struck a chord.

“We want to get our money as soon as possible. But I’m more concerned with the money he owes to African athletes, who need it a lot more than me.  We have had no response from England Athletics about this situation.

“For someone who’s a representative of England Athletics, how did he think he could get away with this? I think England Athletics should pay us, and pursue Ian for the money”.

Sarah Stradling has a similar story. “My mother died in March, and to be asked to go and run in Denmark was a big lift for me. To win prize money was an even bigger lift; then not to receive it!

“I find it odd that England Athletics could employ Ian as a team manager, they must pay all our travel expenses, how come they don’t receive the prize money?”

I had already called England Athletics (EA) last week, asking about Ladbrooke’s role in the organisation, and was given an anodyne statement about him having been a team manager in the past, but not at the moment. When I replied on Tuesday, pointing out the scandalous facts in this case, it turned out that the EA hierarchy was unaware of Ladbrooke’s latest stunt. Yet, according to Smith, Andy Day at AE had been copied on all Smith’s email exchanges with Ladbrooke, since at least August 7.

Apparently, Day is on holiday, and EA says that this cannot be cleared up until he returns next week.

But when I contacted Ladbrooke this morning, Wednesday, EA had obviously, finally swung into action. Ladbrooke admitted that he had received the money from the Lillebaelt race, and that, “I am dealing with it right now”. Whatever that means….

Heslop says she can understand the situation with officialdom. “I’ve always got on with Ian, he seemed a really nice guy. I think he uses that to ingratiate himself with people in power, and then when something like this happens, they protect him.

“I didn’t want to say anything at first, because you don’t want it to affect your chances of getting races in the future, but I’m so angry about it”.

My original exposé on Ladbrooke , almost two weeks ago, drew the largest response of any of the blogs I have written in the last two and a half years; there have been over 20 replies on the blog itself, and over 100 links (Facebook, twitter, et al). But, for the rest, a resounding silence. No mainstream media has picked it up and, far from highlighting it, the letsrun website – usually hot on this sort of thing – buried it away downpage. Athletics Weekly has not even mentioned it. And the eightlane website has actually deleted posts criticising Ladbrooke.

However, the Ras Al Khaimah half-marathon organiser, Nathan Clayton sacked Ladbrooke as his elite recruiter in an open email, accusing him of fraud. And I have heard privately that other events will no longer consider Ladbrooke, or any athletes he represents.

As is often the case in these matters, Ladbrooke has blamed me for publicising his dishonesty, saying that he now cannot remortgage his house and repay immediately 50% of his debts, as he promised in an email to creditors three weeks ago. Those debts – he admits to $330,000 – could be as much as half a million dollars.

follow the link back to the original story on this subjectRoad Rage

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