BOA to consult World Taekwondo Federation over controversial Olympic omission of Aaron Cook

 

The British Olympic Association are to consult the World Taekwondo Federation in the next 24 hours as the decision to overlook world number one Aaron Cook for London 2012 comes under increasing scrutiny.

Great Britain Taekwondo's nomination of Lutalo Muhammad, 59 ranking places below Cook, in the under 80kg division despite twice being asked to reconsider was already being looked at by the BOA.

Now the world governing body has announced a review of its own, after expressing concerns over the transparency of the process and claiming the manner of selection is bringing the sport into disrepute.

The BOA's Olympic Qualification Standards Panel reconvened today, having met last night to hear a review of the process from one of their lawyers - who was present at yesterday's selection meeting - but will now speak to the WTF before coming to a decision on whether procedures were correctly followed.

"Before ratifying any athlete nomination for a host nation qualification place the OQS Panel must be certain the approved selection procedures have been followed and the process has been fair and balanced," said a BOA statement.

"The OQS Panel was notified this morning that the international federation for taekwondo, the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), is now conducting an immediate review of the British Taekwondo selection process as well.

"Given the importance of the issues being considered, the OQS Panel will consult with the World Taekwondo Federation and the British Olympic Association board of directors before making its final decision.

"This consultation will take place tomorrow and the panel will make its decision as quickly as possible thereafter."

The WTF had hoped the issue would be resolved without their involvement but having watched matters develop yesterday, when the same five GB Taekwondo selectors picked Muhammad and provoked widespread media coverage, they have opted to act.

"We are extremely disappointed by the way in which British Taekwondo's selection process has been conducted and it is clear that the lack of a conclusive rationale has caused confusion," said secretary general Jean-Marie Ayer.

"The manner of the selection is bringing our sport into disrepute among the UK media and major Olympic stakeholders due to a perceived lack of transparency.

"Our main concern is always that every athlete is given fair and equal consideration - their welfare must come first.

"We at the WTF have done our utmost to bring fair practices and transparency to our sport and that is why we have committed to undertaking this review.

"People all over the world practise taekwondo because it represents sport in its purest form: an individual display of skill, speed and strength.

"It is essential that the WTF preserves that purity for its 201 member countries and 70 million practitioners with transparent and decisive governance."

Ayer said the review, likely to be conducted over the next couple of weeks, would look at whether any regulations had been broken but could not overrule GB Taekwondo's decision.

"Up until now, the WTF had hoped that this matter could be resolved internally at British Taekwondo," Ayer added.

"As the global governing body we do not interfere with the selection processes and internal affairs of our member nations.

"We have always stated that the athletes nominated for selection must meet minimum requirements set in the qualification system.

"We are not commenting on the decision to select or omit specific athletes, as the criteria imposed beyond our minimum requirements are the remit of the individual member nation.

"This review will not have the power to alter British Taekwondo's decision, but it will determine whether any rules of the WTF ethics code have been broken."

Last night Cook's management company issued a statement in which they said it would be a "national disgrace" if the reigning European champion did not represent his country at London 2012.

One young fan has even started an online petition (http://www.change.org/petitions/put-aaron-cook-in-the-olympics), which already has over 1,000 signatures protesting about the decision.

PA

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