“I hate this sport. Honestly, I have no love left at all for athletics. I can’t wait to be done with it.”

As soon as I ask Guy Learmonth how he is, his anger becomes immediately apparent. 

He’s doing everything he can to remain coherent but he’s finding it hard to keep his raw emotions in check.

It’s easy to see why Learmonth, who has been one of Scotland’s top 800m runners for a decade, is feeling this way.

Earlier this week, the middle-distance man from the Borders was informed by British Athletics that, despite being eligible for next week’s World Indoor Championships, which begin in Glasgow on Friday, the national governing body would not be including him in GB’s team.

And so, the plan to end his indoor athletics career on home soil, was tossed away, just like that.

“My initial reaction when I heard British Athletics’ decision was a mixture of anger, devastation, heart-break but also, I wasn’t surprised because I know how they operate,” the 31-year-old says.

“Athletics has been such a huge part of my life – it was my absolute love and passion and it’s enabled me to buy a house, nice cars, travel the globe and make friends all over the world so on that front, it’s been amazing.

“But now, with how I’ve been treated, I feel like I hate it and I can’t wait to be done.”

There is much that’s happened in the lead-up to this point which fuels Learmonth’s anger.

Having run his best time for five years last summer when he clocked 1 minute 44.80 seconds and with what he describes as an “amazing” block of winter training behind him, Learmonth entered 2024 in optimistic spirits.

His season opener of 1 minute 46.80 seconds earlier this month was certainly encouraging and he headed into last weekend’s British Indoor Championships, which doubled as the trials for the World Indoors, hopeful of both adding a fifth indoor national title to his record, as well as securing qualification for next week’s major championship.

However, things didn’t quite go to plan. 

Having picked up a chest infection in the week leading up to the British Championships, Learmonth swithered over whether or not he should even appear on the start line.

But, for good or for ill, the Scot is never one to shy away from a challenge and he duly turned up to defend the title he won for the fourth time in 2023.

The outcome wasn’t what he’d hoped for; Learmonth was pipped to gold by a single thousandth of a second by Englishman Jack Higgins, with both running 1:47.91.

Having not dipped under time for automatic selection, Learmonth was not included in the initial 21-strong wave of GB athletes who were named in the squad heading to Glasgow next week.

His hope was, knowing that he was eligible through his world ranking on World Athletics’ ‘Road to Glasgow’ ranking list, he’d still be pulling on a GB vest next weekend and sure enough, World Athletics confirmed his eligibility mid-week.

British Athletics’ selection panel had other ideas though, with the governing body concluding that Learmonth had not met their criteria in the British selection policy which states that “athletes must have a performance level that, in the sole discretion of the panel, meets the stated aims of the policy – to contribute to medal success or finish in the top eight”.

No appeal was possible for Learmonth as the appeals deadline closed on Tuesday, a day before World Athletics released their list of eligible athletes, meaning he had literally nowhere to turn to attempt to secure a place in the GB squad.

The decision was a crushing blow to Learmonth, who believes he’s shown in previous seasons that when it comes to championship races, he rarely underperforms.

Six athletes were given ‘invites’ to compete by World Athletics, with British Athletics accepting five and declining only one; Learmonth’s, leading the Scot to believe that his omission from GB’s squad is personal.

There’s no concrete evidence for any kind of personal vendetta against Learmonth but he admits he can’t shake the feeling that he’s being treated differently from others.

“I’ve got myself in great shape for this season, I was ready to have a crack at the national record and my training has been designed to peak at the Worlds, in front of a home crowd. I’m a renowned championship performer and I’m renowned for performing well in front of a home crowd,” he says.

“Yes, the British Championships didn’t go how I wanted after being so ill the week before but my record shows what I can do. I’ve made finals so many times, including finishing top-6 at European Indoors last year and the Commonwealth Games the year before.

“My season’s best this year of 1:46.80 would put me in the final in the last five World Indoor Championships, that’s the stats the selection panel should be looking at.

“But I don’t believe they had these stats at hand.

"It feels like there’s one rule for some athletes and a different rule for others. It seems like they make it up as they go along because I can’t make sense of this.

“This top eight stuff is complete nonsense. I don’t want to speak badly of any other athletes who’ve been selected but there’s someone in there who’s ranked around 130 in the world and so if you think they’ve got a better chance than me to medal or even make the final, that’s bonkers.

“There’s so many discrepancies with the decision-making process.

“British Athletics cannot justify their decision to accept other invites but not mine, which is why it feels so personal.

“Ever since I came into the sport, I’ve done things my own way and I’ve done things outwith the system and I’m not sure they like that.

“I don’t fit their mould.

“There were six invites from World Athletics to GB athletes, British Athletics accepted five and only declined mine. Why?”

British Athletics declined to comment on Learmonth’s case, stating they don’t comment on specific selection decisions.

The Herald:

But what riles Learmonth just as much as the selection decision is the way he’s been treated over the past week and this is why so much of his ire is directed at the governing body which, he believes, have their priorities all wrong.

“I’ve bitten my lip a lot over the years but I’m not going to do that anymore,” he says.

“Maybe some people think speaking up will work against them for future decisions but enough is enough for me now, I’m not going to bite my tongue any longer.

There is some good people in there but the biggest problem is that the management look after themselves and they’re in this draconian mindset and it’s full of the worst sort of politics going.

“Paula Dunn, (GB’s performance director) has been great at keeping in touch after I initially reached out to her but there’s others, who seem to be rarely off their phones, who I’ve not heard a thing from.

“These guys in management don’t see the effort that athletes put in day in, day out and also the investment athletes put in. But they still think they can pull the rug from under you.”

Learmonth has posted numerous times on social media this week expressing his frustration about how British Athletics is run, with a surprising number of his fellow athletes both past and present rushing to agree with him.

His suggestion that the current set-up should be “razed to the ground before being rebuilt” is certain not to happen but there is something clearly wrong when so many who have seen the inside workings of the system are unhappy with how things are run.

Learmonth’s one wish, knowing that he’s now closer to the end of his career than the beginning, is that things change for the next generation.

“British Athletics needs a complete overhaul,’ he says.

“For years, it’s been the same old sh*t. New faces every so often but the same old sh*t in terms of never putting the athletes first.

“Without the athletes, there is no sport in this country. Without the athletes, athletics is nothing yet we get thought of last and that’s disgusting.

“Morally, what they’ve done here is all wrong. Mentally, what they’ve done to me is shocking and financially, they’ve put me in a horrible situation and I really don’t want younger athletes to ever be in this position I’m in.

“I wish they could just show a bit of common decency to the athletes – is that too much to ask for?”

The Herald:

Learmonth’s plans for next weekend, perhaps understandably, do not include watching much athletics.

But in the longer-term, despite him reiterating several times his dislike for the sport to which he’s committed his entire adult life, he’s refusing to hang up his spikes as a result of this disappointment.

Having competed at the European and World Championships, as well as the Commonwealth Games, the one remaining omission is an Olympic appearance.

And that’s something he’s desperate to rectify this summer, at Paris 2024.

But one thing’s for sure, he’s not allowing his Olympic selection to be in the hands of the selectors this summer.

“I’ll definitely watch Josh Kerr next weekend because I love the way he runs and I think he’ll win. In the 800m, I’ve got a few mates who’re running but I won’t go out my way to watch it,” he says. 

“Personally, what’s keeping me going is that I’d never forgive myself if I quit. I’ve never given up on anything in my life and I’m not going to start now.

“I have an amazing team around me and they’ll keep me going.

“I don’t want to prove anyone wrong, that’s not what drives me but I do want to prove myself right.

“I’m one tenth off the Olympic qualifying time and I want to make sure I qualify outright for Paris and take any decision out of the hands of British Athletics.

“At the moment, I feel completely shattered. 

“But I’d not be able to crack on with the rest of my life if I didn’t see this through – I know I have so much more to give and I know I can still run very, very fast times.”