World Taekwondo Federation want end to Aaron Cook selection controversy

 

World Taekwondo Federation secretary general Jean-Marie Ayer hopes the sport can move on towards an "unforgettable" Olympic Games after backing British Taekwondo's selection policy for Team GB.

Despite successfully retaining his European title earlier this summer and being ranked number one in the world for the under-80 kilograms division, Aaron Cook was overlooked in favour of Lutalo Muhammad.

The WTF yesterday found that British Taekwondo correctly to its selection procedure in choosing Muhammad.

Cook had maintained that decision was flawed, but after the British Olympic Association (BOA) ruled there was not sufficient new evidence for GB Taekwondo to be forced to reopen their selection process and also did not allow the 21-year-old fighter to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), he reluctantly dropped his appeal, deciding against taking it to the High Court.

The BOA had initially rejected Muhammad's nomination, and asked the selection panel to be reconvened for what was a third time.

Last month, WTF supremo Ayer had expressed "extreme disappointment" in the whole process, and claimed "the manner of the selection is bringing our sport into disrepute".

However, despite the continued pressure by Cook's representative team to have the decision overturned, the sport's hierarchy have now moved to put the matter behind them.

Ayer said in yesterday's statement: "Our goal was to ensure that British Taekwondo used a transparent system for selecting their athletes for London 2012. After assessing all available evidence, we are satisfied that this was the case.

"Both Aaron Cook and Lutalo Muhammad have been outstanding ambassadors for the sport of taekwondo, and the WTF strongly hopes that both can continue making a positive contribution to our global community."

Ayer's statement concluded: "We are delighted that the taekwondo family's focus can now return to what promises to be an unforgettable celebration of our sport at London 2012."

Cook, who will not be taking up the reserve place, has been self-funded since leaving the GB Taekwondo Academy programme last year, and always maintained his decision to go it alone was ultimately behind the decision to exclude him from the Olympic squad. GB Taekwondo refute this claim.

After their own independent review, the WTF are satisfied no rules had been broken.

A statement read: "The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) has completed its review into British Taekwondo's (BT) selection process for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and has found that the rules defined in BT's selection policy were followed.

"The WTF conducted an analysis of the evidence submitted by BT and representatives of Aaron Cook, and concluded that all the athletes nominated by BT for Team GB satisfy the basic criteria established by the WTF for participation in the Olympic Games.

"Furthermore, the specific selection criteria defined and used by BT were sufficient to justify their nominations.

"As a result, there will be no further official investigation into BT, unless additional evidence is presented."

The on-going saga has overshadowed what had been a superb build-up to the Games from Gary Hall's elite fighters, who followed up four medals at the World Championships with more impressive displays through the ranks at the 2012 European Championships in Manchester.

As well as world champion Sarah Stevenson and Muhammad, Wales' Jade Jones, 19, and Liverpool fighter Martin Stamper were the other fighters ratified for Olympic selection.

PA

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