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Athletics Ireland 'competely reject' claims athlete's Moldovan background cost him Olympic spot

Marathon runner Sergiu Ciobanu was not selected for the three-man team despite posting the third fastest time.

Athletics Ireland has denied Sergiu Ciobanu's claims that his Moldovan heritage played a role in his non-selection for Rio.
Athletics Ireland has denied Sergiu Ciobanu's claims that his Moldovan heritage played a role in his non-selection for Rio.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ATHLETICS IRELAND HAS defended its selection policy ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games after a Moldovan-born Irish marathon runner claimed the country of his birth played a role in their decision not to send him to Rio.

After he was controversially omitted from the three-man Ireland team for this summer’s Olympics — despite having the third fastest qualification time — Sergiu Ciobanu told The42 this morning that:

“I feel like if I was born in Ireland, in the sticks, I would have been selected”

However, while saying they understand that Ciobanu is disappointed, Athletics Ireland have strongly refuted those claims this afternoon:

In a statement to The42, a spokesperson said:

“We understand the disappointment of athletes who were not selected.

We categorically and completely reject any inference that an athlete’s background was in any way a factor in the decision. The selection process and criteria has been in place since 2015 and communicated to all.

“The five-person panel of experienced people — Jim Aughney, Eamon Harvey, Patsy McGonagle, Brid Golden, Paul McNamara with Kevin Ankrom as chair — assessed the situation carefully.

“The panel made very difficult decisions given that we were privileged to have to make choices with so many athletes hitting the qualification times.

The decisions were based purely on which athletes the panel believed would deliver the best performances at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”

As reported earlier today, the three-man team picked by the selectors and ratified by the Olympic Council of Ireland contains Paul Pollock, Mick Clohisey and Kevin Seaward.

At the Berlin marathon in September — in which all four of the athletes raced — Ciobanu was the second Irishman across the line, finishing behind Seaward (2:14:52) in a time of 2:15:14.

Mick Clohisey was 29th that day running 2:15:35, but later surpassed Ciobanu’s time with a 2:15:11 run in Seville in February this year while Pollock finished 30th in Germany in 2:15:38.

In addition to suggesting the country of his birth played a role, Ciobanu alleged this morning that it was Pollock’s performance at the World Half-Marathon Championships in March of this year that earned him selection despite running a slower marathon time in Berlin.

In their own policy document, Athletics Ireland explain how the selection criteria works with priority given to athletes who achieved the qualification time in 2015 over those achieving it this year.

Athletics Ireland also confirmed that an appeal from Ciobanu has been received and would be heard by an independent appeal panel in due course.

Read more: ‘I feel like if I was born in Ireland I would have been selected for Rio’

Ireland’s Sanita Puspure has officially qualified for the Rio Olympics

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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