Aussie appeal could derail Irish bobsleigh team’s Olympic dream

THE Irish women’s bobsleigh team could be sensationally stripped of their place at next week’s Winter Olympics following a legal challenge by Australian officials.

The Australian Olympic Committee has made a lengthy legal appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) contending that they should be included in the 20 teams competing in Canada.

Should they be successful, the Irish team could be replaced by the Australian selection.

The Irish team, which has already achieved higher qualification standards than the Australians, has been entered and accepted for the Winter Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the World Bobsleigh Federation (FIBT) and the Winter Games Organising Committee (VANOC).

An Olympic Council of Ireland spokesperson has expressed disappointment at the development and vowed to fight to ensure the Irish duo of Aoife Hoey and Claire Byrne compete.

A statement read: “The Olympic Council of Ireland is making strong legal representations to CAS regarding the proven rights of qualification of the Irish Women’s bobsleigh team via the standard qualification process, and are highlighting the fact that the team has passed all verification standards for participation in the Winter Olympic Games, including full clearance and accreditation by the International Olympic Committee.

“The Olympic Council of Ireland and the women’s bobsleigh athletes (Aoife Hoey and Claire Byrne) are very disappointed at the Australian Olympic Committee’s approach and are determined to fight for their rightful and well earned position in the Olympic Bobsleigh competition which starts on Tuesday, February 23rd.

“The Irish team is now currently based in the Olympic Village in Whistler, Vancouver, having passed all relevant accreditation registration. It is training at the nearby Olympic bobsleigh track alongside all the other national teams that have qualified for the Games. Nevertheless, CAS is an independent legal entity and may well decide that the Australian Olympic Committee has a case against the FIBT regarding qualification issues that they have raised.

“The Australian Olympic Committee has presented a very lengthy legal submission to CAS outlining their request that the Irish team be replaced by the Australian team – a very technical submission based on Australia’s interpretation of the rules governing qualification. The Irish team, which now is in 19th position on the qualification table, has fully qualified by all international interpretations.

“Japan is in 20th place and completes the quota in the view of the International Olympic Committee and the FIBT. Australia’s case is that, being on the continent of Oceania entitles them automatically, despite much weaker performances than Ireland, to a guaranteed place in the final line-up. This is the issue that CAS has to address.”

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