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The Olympics 2004: CHARIOTS OF IRE; OLYMPIC BUST-UP OVER INJURY Sprinter Campbell confronts Johnson about his TV attack.

Byline: JOHN CROSS in Athens

IT was a showdown that had been simmering for days - British sprinter Darren Campbell versus American track legend turned BBC pundit Michael Johnson.

The pair went head-to-head in an Athens nightclub in a verbal confrontation described by a witness as "really nasty" and ending with the pair being pulled apart.

Hours earlier, 30-year-old Campbell crashed out of the Olympic 200 metres semi-finals in last place, nursing a hamstring injury that had left him limping badly after he scraped through the heats.

Campbell was already unhappy about comments made by five-time gold medallist Johnson and co-pundit Colin Jackson, Britain's former world champion hurdler.

What Johnson, 36, said after his semi defeat - casting doubt on the injury - really riled him: "I'm confused," said Johnson. "He says he has pulled a hamstring and then he says, 'I am in the best form of my life'.

"No one questions his talent, but this time he wasn't in shape.

"He should say, 'You know what? This time I didn't have it'. And everyone would respect that."

Johnson, suggesting that hamstring trouble would have meant a six-week lay-off, added: "I didn't feel real good about him coming off the track wincing. I felt bad for him.

"I have been taken advantage of as a viewer and a supporter of Darren Campbell. He is better than that."

Manchester's Campbell, a silver medallist at the last Games, then met Johnson in the early hours yesterday at a VIP party at the Akrotiri nightclub in the Greek capital.

Campbell marched up to him and said: "I'm not happy about what you have been saying about me.

Johnson replied: "That is my opinion."

The pair then had a further bitter exchange and stood eyeball to eyeball.

Other guests - who included swimming star Ian Thorpe and ex- boxing champion Evander Holyfield - watched stunned as security staff dragged the pair apart.

One witness said of Campbell: "He was furious and they went for each other. It looked really nasty."

Campbell stormed out of the party, organised by swimwear firm Speedo, and yesterday blasted Johnson and Jackson again.

He said: "I don't tell lies and I don't quit, and what Colin and Michael have said is disgraceful.

"They should know better as two former athletes and they of all people should know the business.

"I came over to the British training camp in Cyprus three weeks ago in great shape and really looking forward to having a successful Games.

"But I hurt my hamstring and that is the reason why I have had a bad Games."

Campbell offered to make public the scans on his hamstring injury.

He said: "It is a miracle and completely down to the British team's medical staff that I even reached the 200 semi-final.

"I have been in agony and anyone can see the scans of to prove it.

"If this wasn't an Olympics, I would be told to rest the injury for three days. But I've been lucky to be able to rest it for three hours and have been getting round-the-clock treatment.

"I could have pulled out, but I thought this might be my last event before I retire, so I gave it everything even though I've been in terrible pain."

Campbell, who has won both European and Commonwealth gold, went on: "I have always given everything for my country."

He is even preparing to run the 4x100 metres relay, saying: "I told the other guys that if they need me, I'll be there."

Jackson - involved in a long feud with Campbell's coach Linford Christie - had already upset the sprinter with criticisms of a "B-list" British squad.

In a press area earlier this week, he and Johnson were allegedly called "w******" by Campbell.

Last night both pundits were standing by their comments, insisting they were entitled to an opinion.

JOHNSON

ON

CAMPBELL

I'm confused.. he says he has pulled a hamstring and then he says 'I am in the best form of my life'. No one questions his talent but this time he wasn't in shape. He should say: 'You know what? This time I didn't have it'. And everyone would respect that. I didn't feel real good about him coming off the track wincing. I felt bad for him. I have been taken advantage of as a viewer and a supporter of Darren Campbell. He is better than that

TALE OF THE TAPE

NAME: Darren Campbell

AGE: 30

NATIONALITY: British

EVENTS: 100m, 200m

INDIVIDUAL WORLD

CHAMPIONSHIP GOLDS: None

INDIVIDUAL OLYMPIC GOLDS: None

WORLD RECORDS: None

200M PERSONAL BEST: 20.13

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Olympic silver in the 200m in Sydney

NAME: Michael Johnson

AGE: 36

NATIONALITY: American

EVENTS: 200m, 400m

INDIVIDUAL WORLD

CHAMPIONSHIP GOLDS: Six (two 200m and four 400m titles)

INDIVIDUAL OLYMPIC GOLDS: Three (two 400m and one 200m)

WORLD RECORDS: Two. 19.32 in the 200m and 43.18 in the 400m

200M PERSONAL BEST: 19.32

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Atlanta 1996 where he became the first man to win Olympic gold in the 200m and 400m at the same games.

CAPTION(S):

PUNDIT: Olympic hero Johnson gives view on BBC; HAMSTRUNG: Campbell looks in pain after his run on Tuesday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2004
Words:861
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