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Denise Lewis steps down from UK Athletics role amid concerns over split loyalties with BBC job

Denise Lewis
Denise Lewis succeeded Jason Gardner as UKA president in December - Getty Images/Michael Steele

Dame Denise Lewis has stood down as the president of UK Athletics following questions over combining that role with her BBC punditry work.

The 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion is expected in the BBC studios this weekend in Glasgow for the World Indoor Athletics Championships and announced on social media that she would be temporarily stepping back from her position at UKA.

Lewis succeeded Jason Gardner as UKA president only in December in a position that, while largely ceremonial, involves chairing the members’ board and her win followed a large turnout in the body’s member elections.

The decision was explained in reference “to a hectic summer ahead” but questions have been asked over whether Lewis, who is a longstanding BBC pundit, could combine a broadcast role that might involve criticising athletes, coaches and administrators with holding such a significant position at UKA.

The governing body has been hit by a financial crisis as well as huge internal unrest and turnover of key staff in recent years.

Only last week Guy Learmonth, the Scottish 800m runner, launched a stinging attack on recent governance following his omission from the World Championships, saying that the sport was “falling apart” and highlighting a “constant cycle of new coaches and new performance directors” but a lack of commercial and broadcast income.

The BBC ended its own £3 million contract with UKA in 2020 and has faced criticism previously over perceptions that it is overly positive in its coverage at a time when the sport is facing major challenges.

With the Paris Olympics also looming, Lewis announced on Insta Stories that she was stepping back from her UKA role. “I’ve had to make the difficult decision to temporarily step away from my role as UKA president — with the upcoming Olympics and a hectic summer ahead,” she wrote. “I would only want to accept the role when it can have my full attention.”

UKA have not commented on Lewis’s statement.

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