Cook the victim of sport's secret society
21:30 GMT, 3 June 2012
Those who know say that Aaron Cook will not be representing Britain in London this summer, despite the third meeting of British Taekwondo’s selection panel.
As it stands, the British Olympic Association is refusing to ratify Cook’s exclusion at the expense of Lutalo Muhammad, and are insisting on a representative in the room to ensure fair play when the panel reconvenes.
There will come a time, however, when the BOA will have to stand aside and let British Taekwondo do its duty.
Olympic battle: Taekwondo medal hopeful, Aaron Cook, continues to fight for his place at London 2012
There is no precedent for the BOA imposing an athlete on a national body, and no appetite for such an approach, either. The BOA insist their wish is not to interfere but to guarantee a transparent process.
If Cook is rejected a third time, as expected, there will be protests and maybe even a legal challenge from the athlete and his camp, but almost certainly the presence of a BOA man will bring their resistance to an end.
Unless British Taekwondo are foolish enough to appear cravenly corrupt before an independent witness, the BOA will back down and the decision of the selection panel will stand.
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Gary Hall, Joseph Salim, Steve Jennings, Paul Green and Dr Steve Peters are the men responsible for picking Great Britain’s taekwondo team, not that the governing body has publicised this. Until the names appeared in a newspaper on Saturday, the identity of the selection panel was a mystery, despite their reliance on public money. Even the BOA initially struggled to discover the men behind Cook’s omission.
Why would British Taekwondo wish to keep its selection committee private Perhaps because it is made up of figures who are hopelessly compromised on the main issue surrounding Cook — his decision to opt out of their elite programme last year. Cook believed he wasn’t getting the right training, the right partners and was entering an insufficient number of competitive events.
After going out in the first round a couple of times — he left the World Championships at this stage, in tears — he decided to go it alone. Decamping to his garden shed and using sponsors to fund his work, he rose to world No 1 and became the only Briton to win back-to-back European titles.
He trains with Patrice Remarck, a former taekwondo champion from France, and Mike Clegg, a fitness coach who previously worked with Manchester United.
The suspicion is his success — and a tendency to publicise the reasons behind it — makes British Taekwondo look bad and being overlooked for the London Games is the payback.
Lutalo Muhammad, the man selected in Cook’s place in the -80kg category, is very much in the system. He is also a European champion, but ranked seventh worldwide, rather than Cook’s first. The men have fought each other twice, victories split.
The official, technical explanation for Muhammad’s selection concerns a rule change that awards higher marks for head shots and the selection panel say Muhammad will take greater benefit from this, being taller and more agile. Clearly, the BOA are sceptical.
High hopes: Cook has appealed the decision to snub him for Team GB
And who can blame them For the personnel on the selection panel are hardly without ties.
There is Hall, British Taekwondo’s overall performance director whose methods Cook rejected. Salim is the high performance coach directly responsible for the -80kg programme and works frequently with Muhammad.
Jennings is one of their coaches, who is also married to Sarah Stevenson, a world champion, operating very much inside the programme. Paul Green is a former international taekwondo athlete once coached by Hall. Peters is a non-executive director.
To vote for Cook ahead of Muhammad would be tantamount to an admission that going outside their programme can produce better athletes.
The BOA, rightly, do not care about that. It is not their job to make government-funded bodies look efficient. They just want the best British athlete at the Olympics. It is a clash of cultures; of philosophies.
Taking his place: Lutalo Muhammad
What is being discovered as the Games approach is that minority sports are quite often no more than tiny fiefdoms, ruled by a man or a clan. Remember when the light shone on British Wrestling and half the people at the top turned out to have the same surname
British Taekwondo might not be as incestuous as that but the make-up of the selection committee hardly suggests a level playing field. Do not forget that these names were unearthed, not announced. Despite using your money, they had no intention of letting you know how they make decisions. Muhammad has even had to put up with abuse from racist boneheads since the debate went public.
This is what happens when an organisation prefers to work in secret. It lets ignorance in.
where is UK Sport in all this Nowhere, because they are complicit.
They run the famous ‘no compromise’ high performance programme that
links funding to medals and resulted in the disastrous attempt by
British Wrestling to play the system with a team full of east Europeans.
It took the BOA, again, to slap that worthless programme down and cut wrestling’s contribution to the Olympics to one competitor: Olga Butkevych, from Ukraine.
British Wrestling is so proud of her that the athlete profile on their website gives her date of birth, weight class and no other information, like a soldier captured behind enemy lines during war. Not that there’s something to hide.
All we hear about is the governance and administration in major sports. A year cannot pass without the All-Party Parliamentary Football Group inviting their pet pontificators to tell them what they want to hear, so they can attract the usual headlines and produce the standard report that goes nowhere. If the Rugby Football Union or the England and Wales Cricket Board mess up, we get to hear of it.
Yet the Olympic sports, the under-the-radar sports, exist in their own little world. And it is only when a major event like London 2012 comes along and the public and media suddenly become interested that questions are asked.
And what we are finding, as more and more of these selection issues head towards courts of appeal — we’ve had one in rowing, and you wouldn’t believe what is going on in fencing — is that the presumed conspiracies at the average Premier League meeting are nothing compared to the cosy arrangements in sports such as taekwondo.
A Brit of a mystery: Olga Butkevych represented Team GB despite being born and raised in Ukraine
For what is at stake here is the livelihood of a man. Cook left taekwondo’s private club and made a success of his career and for this he should be denied a goal for which he has worked all his life
What would have happened had Chris Hoy not bought into cycling’s programme What would happen if any young athlete thought he knew best and was proved right
There are too many fretting about whether David Beckham can do his testimonial turn for the Great Britain football team and too few taking up the torch for Cook.
And when the BOA finally stand aside, as informed voices say they will, he is going to be left to battle the forces of vested interest alone: and that is one fight he can never win.
WTF: Dr Un Yong Kim
What the WTF president LOL
The World Taekwondo Federation was formed in South Korea on May 28, 1973. Its first meeting took place in Seoul with 35 representatives from around the world.
Dr Un Yong Kim, a former International Olympic Committee vice-president, was its inaugural chairman and he was no doubt satisfied with the way his new organisation’s acronym tripped off the tongue.
WTF: World Taekwondo Federation.
And then text speak came along. These days WTF means something rather different.
For delicate ears, shall we call it a strong expression of surprise
The current chief is Dr Chungwon Choue, who must thank his predecessors every day for the delight of being known as the WTF president.
One can only hope that during the Olympics he is given cause to make a strong statement on an issue, just to give editors a crack at the headline: ‘Aaron Cook not selected by Britain WTF, says WTF.’
GB in oars de combat
Great Britain’s rowers appear to have pulled a stroke over transportation times to the Olympic venue at Eton Dorney.
Original estimates of 30 minutes have been revised to one hour causing widespread disruption, which will not affect Team GB who secured Thameside accommodation and will travel to events by water. But rivals are furious, and understandably so.
Germany, Holland, the USA and Australia have lodged protests with the International Federation of Rowing Associations and the IOC.
The Canadians have even announced plans to cycle to the venue. Outrage would, however, be a particularly precious emotion from Canada, considering their conduct as hosts of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
Own The Podium was the motto, and visiting athletes were afforded very limited time to train on site, putting them at a disadvantage.
Perhaps Canada now comprehend why everybody was upset. For Olympic hosts, ethical behaviour should not be an option, but the minimum requirement enforced by the IOC.
Oar-some: Eton Dorney in Windsor will host the Olympic rowing events later this year
No country should be allowed to own the podium, the places or the information.
The flip side of this is the decision to host a World Cup sailing event in the Olympic venues of Weymouth and Portland less than two months before the Games.
There have been grumblings from British sailors, among them two-time Olympic champion Iain Percy, that letting 700 competitors into domestic waters undermines home advantage. What would they rather we do, torpedo them
Two years are enough
The French Football Federation has set qualification from the group stage of Euro 2012 as a minimum requirement for manager Laurent Blanc. The message is clear: fail and lose your job.
Meanwhile, our Football Association gave Roy Hodgson a contract that lasts for three tournaments, before he had even bossed a game.
Clearly, he has taken the position in exceptional circumstances and had to be given a contract through to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Get the job done: France boss Laurent Blanc has clearly marked out targets for Euro 2012
Yet why do we insist on four-year deals for untried managers The job is a two-year cycle, the tournament being the proving ground.
Maybe there was anxiety that a foreign coach, like Fabio Capello or Sven Goran Eriksson, might return to a lucrative club post after a good campaign, causing embarrassment, but what English-born manager would turn his back on his country at the end of a positive tournament
One that did wouldn’t be the right man for the job anyway. A long contract is an unnecessary complication in international football, as England discovered after the last World Cup.
City fans pay up
Manchester City have increased season ticket prices by nine per cent for next season, following a six per cent rise a year ago. What did anyone expect
Financial fair play (FFP) regulations ensure the money required to fund continued success cannot come from the owners, so more must be squeezed from consumers. Another blindingly obvious consequence of FFP that UEFA president Michel Platini somehow did not anticipate.
Kean for help
Steve Kean has been trying to persuade Colin Hendry, the Blackburn Rovers legend, to join his coaching staff for next season. It is not known what Hendry’s official job title would be, but ‘Lightning Rod’ seems a fair guess.
Welcome return Colin Hendry has been approached by Steve Kean over a vacant position at Blackburn
Roman Abramovich continues to assemble next season’s Chelsea squad with
no consideration for his manager, it emerges that Andre Villas-Boas
received 12million in compensation following his dismissal.
has cost Abramovich 76m to sack managers in five years, which is
probably why they put up with the indignity of his interference.
only reason a coach of any standing would tolerate Chelsea’s politics
is because when Abramovich finally needs a scapegoat to pay for his
mistakes, he always makes it worth their while.
Aston Villa believe they can exploit a
clause in Paul Lambert’s contract to avoid paying compensation to his
former employers, Norwich City.
doubt Lambert believes he has joined a much bigger club. The fact that,
as an opening gambit, mighty Villa are attempting to diddle Norwich to
get him on the cheap makes this doubtful.
Ashton says he’ll never again celebrate a try with a swallow dive. Well
done all. We’ve finally managed to suck the fun out of him.
Khan says his WBC world title fight with Danny Garcia on July 14 will
not be overshadowed by the freak show that is David Haye versus Dereck
Chisora taking place the same night. The winner of Britain’s Got Talent
was a dog act, mate. Sadly, it will.
No more jumping for joy: Chris Ashton has vowed to never do his famous swallow dive celebration
Algerians in hot water
At the World Cup canoeing regatta in Duisburg on May 25, in the fourth heat of the men’s K1 1,000 metre race, Nasreddine Baghdadi of Algeria crossed the start line in lane five, but then pulled over and calmly paddled to the side.
No official explanation for his retirement was sought, or given, but it is strongly believed the competitor in lane three, Roei Yellin, provoked his withdrawal.
Yellin is from Israel.
Baghdadi is thought to have come under such intense pressure from above — all the way to national government level — that he felt unable to proceed.
He had been advised by fellow Algerian athletes that to compete against an Israeli would bring an adverse reaction from Hachemi Djiar, the Minister of Sport.
The fear is that at the summer Olympics, Algerian team members will be instructed to follow Baghdadi’s example if drawn against an Israeli. The International Olympic Committee have advised the Comite Olympique Algerien that this will not be allowed.
Not good enough. Not tough enough.
The advice should be that if one Algerian athlete refuses to compete against an Israeli, all Algerian entrants will be excluded, instantly, and the nation banned from future Olympic tournaments until its government provides a written guarantee of participation, regardless of the race, religion, politics or gender of rival competitors.
It is quite incredible that the IOC allows countries such as Saudi Arabia to discriminate against women, let alone trying the softly-softly approach to anti-Semitism.