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Soldiers left out of 2012 shooting team

Two members of the Army suspect prejudice and a post-Dunblane sensitivity to guns is behind their exclusion from the Olympics

Two British serving soldiers have been left out of Britain's Olympic shooting squad. Their omission has sparked allegations that they are being excluded because they are members of the military. There are also claims that the UK remains embarrassed about the sport in the wake of the Dunblane school massacre.

Warrant Officer Morgan Cook, 39, and Corporal Ian Jack, 27, both serving members of the British Army, were told last week there is no place for them at London 2012 despite both men achieving the qualifying scores. The decision leaves the UK with no representatives in the men's Olympic rapid fire free pistol event.

WO Cook, the world No 1 in his sport as well as the British Forces shooting champion, said both he and Cpl Jack are "devastated" by the decision. "There seems to be a personal as well as a political agenda. You must wonder if there is some sort of prejudice against Army people and pistol shooters in particular."

Pistol shooters have been sensitive to discrimination after they became pariahs when 16 children and a teacher were shot dead in the Scottish community of Dunblane in 1996 by a deranged gun collector. The tragedy resulted in a handgun ban.

A petition on behalf of the two soldiers will be presented to the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, at a military function this evening. Kate Hoey MP, a former sports minister and ex-president of British Shooting, has called for a review of the decision.

Cpl Jack won a major international championship in Berlin six months after taking up the sport two years ago. "Ian and I believe we both have genuine podium chances but we are being discriminated against on a technicality," WO Cook said.

He has a copy of a scorecard signed by a coach, Hugh Hunter, which shows he had a practice score of 587 out of 600, 19 more than the mark set by British Shooting and four points higher than the Olympic record.

"It is outrageous that the British public is covering the cost of the Games yet is witnessing potential Olympic champions being denied the opportunity to compete," he said. He called into question the qualifying criteria.

As a result of the decision against the two men, Britain will field only one pistol shooter in an 11-strong squad – 27-year-old Georgina Geiki.

In March, the IoS revealed that Britain's most celebrated marksman, Mick Gault, had also missed out on the Olympics despite being the nation's most prolific Commonwealth Games competitor in any sport – he has 17 medals, including nine golds.

British Shooting says the qualifying scores attained by both soldiers were not eligible as they were made in practice and not designated events, criteria agreed with the British Olympic Association. It denies any bias against service personnel or pistol shooters.

Phil Scanlan, the British Shooting team leader, said: "I refute any suggestion of prejudice. The situation is simple: they haven't made the qualifying score in competition. We decided on a specific qualification for the GB team. We felt this was the fairest way."

The shooting row follows controversy over the taekwondo star Aaron Cook who was left out of the Olympic team despite the fact that he is the world-rated No 1 in his weight class.