Sprinter claimed thousands in sick pay

He said he could not work but was running sprints

FORMER Commonwealth sprinter Matthew Thomas who claimed �12,000 in sick pay for a bad back when he was still running competitively was given a suspended jail sentence today.

The 34-year-old had told his bosses at Newham Council an agonising fall from a ladder meant he could not even sit at a desk for seven months.

But while he was off sick the payroll officer raced in two national competitions and coached young athletes as part of a Metropolitan Police scheme.

When Thomas was caught out by investigators, who covertly filmed the athlete on the running track, he said sprinting was part of his “therapy.”

At Inner London Crown Court Judge Nigel Gerald sentenced Thomas to four months jail but suspended the term for two years.

The judge told him: “It is perfectly clear to me that you used this period to fund fraudulently a career change from working in payroll, a job which you found dull, to athletic coaching, a job you were well suited to and which inspired you, but something you could not afford to do without defrauding your employer.”

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Thomas was also ordered to perform 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay back the �11,999 and 17p he had defrauded and �8,000 in court costs.

Thomas, of St Stephens Road, East Ham, claimed he had suffered his fall in November 2007 and did not come into work the following day.

He claimed he “could not get in and out of the car, sit or stand.”

Prosecutor Rebecca Channon said: “He stated he couldn’t do everyday activities, however prior to that meeting he had worked four times at Met Track and had completed an application form to take part in the Birmingham Athletic Games.”

Two days later Thomas, who ran for St Lucia in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, competed in the 60m sprint race at the meeting.

On March 1, 2008, Thomas took part in three races in one day at the Surrey County Indoor Championships.

Undercover investigators were tipped off and filmed Thomas sprint training at the track and coaching teenagers.

He was found guilty of seven charges of fraud by false representation.