With just over a month to go until the start of the Olympics, the final few places in Team GB are being allocated. For many athletes, representing their country at the Olympic Games will be a once in a lifetime experience and it is difficult to imagine just how euphoric a feeling it must be to receive the news that they have been selected to compete at London 2012.
However, spare a thought for those athletes who will not make selection. Many will have worked tirelessly over the last 4 years to give themselves the best possible chance of competing at the Olympics only for their hopes to be dashed.
So, is this the end of the London 2012 dream for the unsuccessful athletes? Well, for the majority the answer will be yes. However as reported in the media in recent weeks, an increasing number of UK athletes have publicly criticised selection decisions and are considering taking further action to try to have them overturned.
Some question whether athletes should be entitled to appeal a selection decision, however I disagree.
Perhaps the highest profile challenge to date has been that of Taekwondo athlete Aaron Cook. By way of background, 21 year old Cook, who is currently the European champion and world no. 1 for the under 80kg division, was recently overlooked for Olympic selection by GB Taekwondo who instead selected Lutalo Muhammad, an athlete who is ranked well below Cook in the world rankings.
Cook appealed GB Taekwondo’s decision to the BOA’s Olympic Qualification Standards panel (OQS) who, in turn, asked GB Taekwondo to reconsider its decision. However, GB Taekwondo again nominated Muhammad and last week, the OQS ratified GB Taekwondo’s decision. Cook and his legal advisers are now reported to be considering taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Cook’s decision to challenge GB Taekwondo has undoubtedly divided opinion. Some question whether athletes should be entitled to appeal a selection decision, however I disagree.
Great Britain is different from countries such as the USA who adopt a one-off Olympic trials system whereby if you finish in the top 2 or 3 places on the day, you are selected. In contrast, selection for Team GB is determined by committee members of governing bodies who consider each athlete based on a number of criteria.
The issue with the current Team GB selection model appears to be that the criteria adopted by the UK sports governing bodies is often unclear, and in some cases a complete mystery, to the athletes who are affected. This lack of transparency naturally leads to some athletes, such as Aaron Cook, publicly questioning the basis for selection decisions and in such circumstances, it seems only fair that an athlete is afforded the right to pursue matters further whether that be by way of an appeal to the OQS or by the raising of legal proceedings in a court of law.
So is there an easy solution which will prevent such disputes from arising in the future?
The answer is probably not. Whilst steps could be taken to make the selection process more transparent by publishing criteria, there will always be athletes who will disagree with a selection decision.
Source: Metro Olympic Blog