Angry Cook in last-chance saloon
World No 1 says British Taekwondo's latest refusal to select him for London is a 'national disgrace'
The chances of Aaron Cook,the world No 1, competing in the Olympic Games receded significantly yesterday when British Taekwondo refused for a third time to overturn their original selection in Cook's favour.
Last night Cook issued an angry statement describing the latest refusal to select him as "flawed", a "disgrace" and an "embarrassment" for the sport. He and his representatives are considering legal action.
The stand-off between the British Olympic Association and BT continues with the sport's governing body steadfastly maintaining Lutalo Muhammad is their selection in the -80kg category. It leaves the BOA little choice but to accept BT's choice unless it is prepared to invoke an emergency clause in its selection criteria for the first time in its history and reject a governing body's choice. Under the Olympic charter a national Olympic committee can ultimately reject a team selected by a national governing body.
The BOA's Olympic qualification selection panel met last night to consider its limited options. An announcement is expected today. The panel, that includes Andy Hunt, the chief executive, and Sir Clive Woodward, the performance director, heard a report from Shahab Uddin, the BOA's lawyer, who observed the latest BT selection meeting yesterday.
The BOA had asked BT to reconsider its choice and laid out a number of criteria that needed to be satisfied. If Uddin advised those have been met, the BOA will have little choice but to accept Muhammad. There is a reluctance to use the "nuclear" option in part due to the uncertainty over where that might lead.
"There is a huge amount of learning to be done for everybody," said Hunt, who would not comment directly on the case until the panel had met. "There a lot of lessons to be learned about using a discretionary selection process."
Cook's representatives will await the BOA's decision before deciding what their next course of action will be. Among the legal options available is an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Cook, who is European champion in the -80kg class, has also written to Lord Moynihan, president of the BOA, and Hugh Robertson, the minister of sport and the Olympics, expressing his concern over the selection process.
Last year the 21-year-old left BT's high performance programme and there have been claims that BT's preference for Muhammad was politically motivated.
Cook's statement read: "Aaron is disappointed but not surprised [by his non-selection]. It has been clearly demonstrated that the process adopted by [British Taekwondo] in the two other selection meetings held before today were flawed. Nothing changed today particularly given that the same Selectors were involved and took little consideration of objective facts and [BT's] own Selection Criteria events. We have appealed to the BOA not to ratify this flawed decision again. We are considering Aaron's position including all his legal options.
"This is an embarrassment not only for the sport of taekwondo, but also for Great Britain's international reputation in hosting the London Games. If the British World No 1 and reigning European Champion does not compete, it will be a national disgrace."
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