‘I’ll draw an Irish flag on my hand’ – English sprinter Leon Reid to race under neutral flag after Ireland hopes dashed

‘I’ll draw an Irish flag on my hand’ – English sprinter Leon Reid to race under neutral flag after Ireland hopes dashed

ENGLISH-BORN sprinter Leon Reid has asked to race under a neutral flag at next month’s World Championships after his request to race for Ireland was rejected.

Reid has previously competed for Northern Ireland and is eligible for Team Ireland via both his Belfast-born mother and his Wexford-born foster mother.

Last week, the 22-year-old penned an open letter to IAAF president Seb Coe in a bid to keep his Ireland hopes alive – but his request has now been rejected as it was not processed quickly enough to meet Sunday’s deadline for selection.

In a statement on Sunday, Reid said: “The IAAF have told me that the transfer will not go through as it was not passed through organisations quick enough for them to approve the transfer in time for the 2017 World Championships in London.”

He is now considering racing under a neutral flag at the upcoming World Championships in London, which kick off on August 4.

Speaking to The Irish Post, Reid said: “I’ve certainly asked the question. Even if I compete under a neutral flag I’ll probably draw an Irish one on my hand and represent them in a cheeky way like that.

“Just being able to get out there and run is my main goal.”

Earlier this month, Reid revealed he would turn down any offers from Great Britain to keep his Ireland hopes alive, after impressing at Team GB’s World Championship Trials in Birmingham with a surprise third-place finish in the 200m.

His time of 20.38 seconds was six-tenths of a second inside the mark required to make it through to next month’s World Championships.

But he says the stigma of racing under a neutral flag will be far from ideal.

Leon has previously raced for Northern Ireland (Picture: Getty)

"It's a shame that I would ever be put in a category with drug users and cheats but I am that desperate to compete at this year's championships,” Reid said.

“Not everyone who runs under one is a drugs cheat, but that’s what I will be associated with if it goes through.

“Hopefully they would be able to add a ‘P.S.’ underneath explaining that I’m not a cheater or a drug user.”

He added: “At least it would create some publicity for my cause. I’ll be running either way.”

Reid explained that his decision to opt for Ireland is based both on his affinity for the country of his family and the mentality of Irish Athletics.

“My biological mum was born in Belfast and my foster mum was raised in Enniscorthy in Wexford,” he said.

“I have a big family there including my grandparents and it’s just a big connection.

“If you’re running well then British Athletics are your best friends. If you’re not then they don’t want to hear from you.

“I’ve always wanted to be part of a set-up where they support you no matter what, and the Irish mentality is totally different in that respect.

“I know Irish Athletics will get me to meets and support me.”

Bath-based Reid began the process of switching his allegiance to Ireland over a year ago, long before the IAAF froze all transfers of allegiance in February this year.

“British Athletics and the IAAF have people whose jobs are literally to handle this sort of thing. But they kept putting me off and passing it down,” said Reid.

“It’s not like there’s hundreds of people like me. There’s one or two a year making these requests, that’s it.

“It’s incredible to see how they messed that up.”

Requests to switch nationalities such as Reid’s will be reviewed again after the World Championships, and Reid is confident he will be allowed to run for Ireland once the competition concludes.

“I can’t wait to run for Ireland and it’s just a shame that I will have to wait until after these World Championships,” he said.

“It’s just not fair.”