BOA confirms UK choice, snubs taekwondo star Cook
The British Olympic Association has ratified the decision to exclude top-ranked fighter Aaron Cook from the London Games, providing the latest twist in a controversy the sports minister has called ''embarrassing.''
The BOA said Friday in a statement that it confirmed GB Taekwondo's nomination of Lutalo Muhammad, ranked 104, to represent Britain. Last week, the BOA ordered GB Taekwondo's selection panel to reconvene after Cook appealed his omission. The panel met this week and was joined by an independent observer and Cook's coach, Patrice Remarck.
On Thursday, the World Taekwondo Federation announced its own review into GB's selections, saying the furor over Cook's omission plunged the martial art into ''disrepute.''
''We are extremely disappointed by the way in which British Taekwondo's selection process has been conducted,'' Jean-Marie Ayer, the WTF secretary general, said in a statement. ''Our main concern is always that every athlete is given fair and equal consideration.''
According to guidelines from the WTF, British Olympic athletes - who did not have to qualify like those from other countries since they were awarded host nation places - should have been consistently ranked in the top 20 during the last two years. Cook has regularly been among the top fighters while Muhammad has been only as high as 56.
BOA concluded GB Taekwondo did comply with approved selection procedures but it reserved the right to reconsider the nomination subject to the review by the WTF.
Remarck called Cook's exclusion ''a disgrace'' and said the selection panel was biased in Muhammad's favor. Cook is the world No. 1 in the 80-kilogram division and has won more major tournaments than Muhammad. He also has defeated 10 of the 15 fighters who will be competing at the London Games in his category. Muhammad has been training with the British program for less than one year.
''They look like idiots,'' Remarck said of GB Taekwondo.
Cook fell out with the body after he ditched their national program last year. He has won a string of tournaments since, including the recent European Championships. Muhammad won the same competition in a heavier weight category.
GB Taekwondo officials had argued Muhammad had an advantage over Cook since he was slightly taller and more likely to land head kicks, which score the most points.
Remarck dismissed that argument, citing Cook's ability to execute numerous head kicks consecutively and his experience beating the world's best fighters.
''If you just look at the medals won and the experience, Aaron is by far the superior fighter,'' he said.
Cook is considering suing GB Taekwondo for the exclusion, Remarck said.
British sports minister Hugh Robertson described the ongoing spat as ''embarrassing'' and warned he could take action if it was not resolved.
''You would rather not see our sports getting criticized by their international federations,'' he said.