Aaron Cook's hopes of competing at next month's Olympic Games remain on ice but the World Taekwondo Federation's decision yesterday to investigate the circumstances surrounding the world No 1's controversial non-selection for the British team means there is still a chance he may be granted a dramatic last-minute reprieve.
The British Olympic Association are to consult with the WTF before making a decision whether to overrule British Taekwondo's choice of Lutalo Muhammad to fight in the -80kg class ahead of Cook, the current European champion at the weight. The BOA are expected to announce their decision today – if they do demand Cook's inclusion it would be the first time they have ever exercised their power under the Olympic Charter enabling them to have final say on selection.
Yesterday Patrice Remarck, the former world champion who coaches Cook, called on the BOA to have the "courage" to demand his inclusion.
"It is an injustice to the sport," said Remarck. "I'm glad the WTF are involved and are saying 'something is wrong here'. The world No 1, the one able to beat the best players in the world is not picked – how is that right? I hope the BOA will have the courage and be responsible to repair the injustice to Aaron. They need to give some guidelines to this small organisation [BT] that is run like a fiefdom. They have done a lot of damage to sport and taekwondo."
The BOA asked BT to reconsider its selection three times and each time the five-strong selection panel has delivered the same outcome. On Wednesday Remarck was questioned by the panel in person, while Muhammad was represented by his father, who is also his coach, via a conference call. At one point the meeting had to be interrupted so the phone could be recharged after its batteries ran low.
The BOA's Olympic Qualification Standards Panel will now talk to the WTF today as well as the BOA's own board to make sure they have a watertight case before announcing any decision. Cook's representatives believe they will know the outcome later today. If it goes against them they will consider legal action.
Jean-Marie Ayer, secretary general of the WTF, voiced the concern of the world governing body over a process that has left BT open to charges of making a politically motivated decision. Cook left BT's elite training programme last year to go his own way.
"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," Ayer said.
"The manner of the selection is bringing our sport into disrepute 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."
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