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Lack of understanding from officials proving restrictive to Scottish competitors

Following similar tales in badminton and athletics, yet another case has been brought to my attention of a Scottish competitor who has been selected for a team event but refused by Commonwealth Games Scotland the chance to take on inferior rivals from other countries in the individual event.

Jamie Bowie vies with USA's David Verburg in the men's 400 metres in the Sainbury's Glasgow International in January, but the Scot was unable to qualify for the individual event at the Commonwealth Games. Picture: Stewart Attwood

In this case the youngster involved, who considered turning down the place offered, is concerned that to speak out would be career damaging in the longer term, so that must be respected. However, that worry in itself seems telling.

Meanwhile, time and time again the impression given is that folk who are out of touch with real sport but have managed to get themselves on to influential boards are insisting upon rules without showing the flexibility which would come with greater understanding.

In the case of the badminton players Rebekka Findlay and Caitlin Pringle - they will be involved in the team competition because they offer proper strength in depth - the benefit both to team dynamic and their development by allowing them to play in individual events has been well documented in this column.

As for Jamie Bowie, a 400-metre runner who has been good enough to make the Great Britain relay team both indoors and outdoors, it seems there has been a failure to grasp what is required for athletes to prepare properly and to peak at key stages in the season.

When I spoke to him back in March, it was already becoming obvious that something would have to give as he attempted to juggle both the demands of the GB and Scotland relay teams, while also striving to achieve what looks an unnecessarily tough Scottish qualifying standard for the individual 400m at the Games.

"It's a case of hoping to get the opportunities where the quality of fields and track and weather conditions are right, because you need the right combination of those," Bowie acknowledged at the time. "There's not an awful lot of time because you are also trying to find the balance between pushing for the qualifying time but making sure you don't empty yourself and have enough in the bank for the Games, because I don't just want to be there for the kit.

"We've got an opportunity for a Scottish 4x400m team but it's a tough qualifying standard for the individual event - even higher than the standard for the European Championships - which is not to say the standard is not high there."

When he was trotted out in front of the media last week as one of those granted a place in the biggest Games team Scotland has fielded, Bowie made most of the right noises. Yet there was also a rather rueful undertone.

"I'm really disappointed not to get the qualifying standard [in the individual event]; it's something I felt I could have done," he said. "There was no leeway with the policy . . . because we've got a small team, the opportunity wasn't given to me to compete in the individual 400. There will be people on that start line [in the individual 400] that I know I can beat, because they're from smaller nations or have been afforded the opportunity to compete by their governing body.

"I felt I could have made the step up to the individual standard but, at the same time, I'm delighted to be a part of the team."

Of course he is and so he should be, but therein lies the point. We are not talking here about people who are not good enough to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games; we are talking about those already in the team.

Just like Findlay, like Pringle and like Bowie, the anonymous competitor referred to earlier is as good as, if not better than, many of those being allowed to compete by their federations in the individual event, not least some from England where, on the basis of scale, the domestic qualification requirement should be significantly tougher.

This is a year in which politicians of all hues are trying to tell us that they are taking the positions they are on the referendum because they want to offer citizens of Scotland the best possible chance to flourish.

Yet, when it comes to this most obvious of opportunities to stand up and be counted by insisting that opportunities are maximised for those of our youngsters who have done well enough to earn the right to represent Scotland, the silence has been deafening.

It seems that such is the determination not to be seen to be rocking boats that when it comes to sport, the "better together" campaign has quelled all thought of criticism from politicians, not to mention a largely compliant media.

It would, of course, be great to think that someone with the clout to challenge those imposing these rules may yet speak up. My suspicion, however, is that there is far more likely to be a witch-hunt as those who would control every team member's every utterance seek to work out just who has dared to offer a murmur of discontentment about their lot.

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