A row erupts over the selection of one of Britain’s taekwondo representatives for the Olympics after the BOA supports a decision to overlook world number one Aaron Cook.
It means that Cook, world number one in the under-80kg division, will not go to the Olympic Games, although the 21-year-old is already exploring legal avenues to challenge the decision by Great Britain Taekwondo to put forward Muhammad as their chosen selection.
Cook’s representatives said in a statement it was “an absolute disgrace” he had not been selected and he would be considering whether to contest the decision.
After two days considering the selection process, the BOA’s Olympic qualification standards (OQS) panel decided to ratify Muhammad’s nomination.
“The decision by the British Olympic Association OQS panel to ratify the nomination was unanimous,” said a BOA statement.
In the 80kg category there is only room for one man. Selectors have said that they decided on Muhammad, despite his lower ranking, because of untapped potential.
At the German Open earlier this year, Muhammad came out on top. There have also been claims that Muhammad’s temperament during contests gave him the edge over his more experienced rival.
Cook had been overlooked three times by GB Taekwondo but after complaints by the athlete the BOA, and also the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), launched reviews into the selection process.
The world number one left the official British programme earlier this year and appointed his own coach. His team claims that the selection process has been weighted in Muhammad’s favour.
Mr Cook’s coach Patrice Renmarck said: “Whatever the criteria that the UK have, somehow they are not able to pick the best athlete. So something’s wrong.”
After a teleconference involving the BOA board, the OQS panel – which can only accept or reject nominations and is not permitted to select its own choice – conferred with the WTF on Friday afternoon before deciding to back the choice of Muhammad.
However, the BOA said the OQS panel reserves the right to reconsider the nomination subject to the findings of the ongoing inquiry being led by the WTF.
The decision, said the BOA, was taken for a number of reasons.
“In convening a selection committee for a third time in order to bring forward a nomination for the men’s 80 kg weight category British Taekwondo did in fact follow its approved selection procedures and did comply with the directives given to it by an earlier appeal panel and the OQS panel,” said the statement.
“The decision to ratify the nomination was taken following an extensive review of the selection process followed by British Taekwondo.
“The OQS panel reserves the right to reconsider the nomination subject to the findings of the ongoing inquiry being led by the World Taekwondo Federation.”
There was some criticism of the way GB Taekwondo had managed the selection process though.
“The OQS panel expressed strong disappointment in the manner by which the selection process has been managed by the national governing body,” added the statement.
“In particular, the undue strain and uncertainty that has been brought upon two world-class athletes.
“The OQS panel also expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the selection process and the inconsistent communication with the two athletes involved.”
For future Olympic Games the BOA hopes to work with GB Taekwondo to implement selection policies which place a greater emphasis on objectivity and transparency.
BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said the OQS panel felt the selection process should have been handled better.
“There are two world-class athletes directly impacted by this nomination,” he said. “Our panel would have preferred to see the selection process managed in a manner that would have been of much greater service to both athletes.
“That said, after a thorough review, the panel is now sufficiently satisfied that the agreed selection procedures have been followed, and it is on that basis we are ratifying the nomination.
“With two exceptionally talented athletes in consideration for one place there is no doubt this was a difficult decision for the British Taekwondo selection committee, which makes following the approved selection procedures all the more important.”