Athletics: Games star had to quit to compete in Delhi
COMMONWEALTH Games athlete Michelle Ross-Cope is to take her former employers to a tribunal after claiming they went back on offers to help her compete for her country in Delhi.
The 38-year-old, from Waterhayes in Newcastle, is claiming constructive dismissal after leaving her job as a finance assistant at Freshpack Ltd, of Fields Road, Alsager.
EURO STAR: Michelle Ross-Cope in action at the European Athletics Championships.
The City of Stoke AC runner, who finished sixth in last week's Commonwealth Games marathon, says the company had initially said they would support her athletics career.
However, she claims Freshpack suspended her after saying she hadn't booked her holiday time to go to a training camp in France to prepare for last summer's European Championships.
She was reinstated, but says relations only worsened after she was selected for the Commonwealth Games.
She claims she was refused time off to attend an altitude training camp and told that, although she could take two weeks off for the Games, she would not be paid.
Ross-Cope said: "I have decided to go down the route of a tribunal.
"The problems started just before the Europeans when I first went to altitude training.
"A company I worked for, for six years, who said they would support me with my running, basically started to make it more difficult.
"You don't want to turn your country down, but when your company is making it difficult to have time off then it is hard."
Freshpack declined to comment when contacted by The Sentinel.
Ross-Cope's performances in the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games have made her a contender to make the Great Britain squad for the Olympics in 2012.
She was the first Briton home in the European Championships in Barcelona, where she finished 14th overall.
That helped earn her a place in the England squad at the Commonwealth Games, where she defied illness and soaring temperatures to finish sixth.
However, the mum-of-three says her problems at work had made her consider whether to give up athletics.
She said: "I did think that when I came back from the Commonwealth Games I might have to retire.
"But physically and mentally I can still compete and I want to go as far as I can.
"I don't want to give up and then look back in four or five years and wish I had carried on."
Ross-Cope is searching for a new job to help support her daughters, who are aged 14, eight and seven.
She says competing as an international athlete also puts a major stress on her finances.
She said: "While I was in Doha, at the training camp for the Commonwealth Games, I was going through employment agencies and sending off my CV.
"I am not funded, apart from my kit sponsorship with Asics.
"There is prize money from races, and I have won around £2,000 over the last year, but you have to weigh that up with paying for physiotherapy, accommodation and things such as altitude tents."
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