Heartbroken Sergiu Ciobanu set to appeal after ‘unfair’ Olympics omission

Irish marathon runner Sergiu Ciobanu says he “feels robbed” after Athletics Ireland chose to omit him from the Olympic team last night in favour of Paul Pollock.

AAI announced their decision yesterday evening, with Pollock named on the men’s team along with Kevin Seaward, and Mick Clohisey. The women’s team will be comprised of Lizzie Lee, Fionnuala McCormack, and Breege Connolly.

Ciobanu, who was born in Moldova but has lived in Ireland since 2005, believes his background may have counted against him. “I feel if I was born in Nenagh or Killarney then I would be in that team,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed, and I’m sure this decision won’t give hope to many athletes who tried their best to qualify.”

Ciobanu’s coach Jerry Kiernan branded the decision “unfair” and believes Athletics Ireland backtracked on their selection criteria. “The association kept moving the goalposts,” he said.

“Eventually they said ‘we reserve the right to change our policy as we go along’, which is bullshit.”

At the Berlin Marathon last September – a race which saw all the Irish Olympic contenders compete – Ciobanu was the second Irishman across the line, finishing 24th in 2:15:14. Mick Clohisey was 29th in 2:15:35, but later surpassed Ciobanu’s time with a 2:15:11 run at the Seville Marathon in February.

Pollock finished six places and 24 seconds behind Ciobanu in Berlin, but appears to have been chosen due to his performances over shorter distances since then. In March this year, he finished 14th at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, almost four minutes ahead of Ciobanu.

However Kiernan believes that holds little relevance over 26.2 miles. “Picking a marathon team on the basis of a half marathon makes absolutely no sense,” he said. “It’s like picking someone who has run a 400m on an 800m team. Sergiu is intrinsically a marathon runner. He stays on his feet and gets home. I do not believe he’s the fourth best marathon runner in the country.

“If you look at the criteria, you would have to feel Sergiu deserved the gig rather than Pollock. They all ran on the same day on the same course and we had an outcome, which was Seaward, Sergiu, and Clohisey, with Pollock fourth. I’m not saying they’ve got it wrong but I’m not too sure they’ve got it right.”

Ciobanu confirmed last night that he will appeal the decision, which must be done within 24 hours of the announcement. If the chair of the appeals panel deems there are sufficient grounds, his appeal will be heard by a three-person panel by the end of the week.

Athletics Ireland will then forward their decision to the Olympic Council of Ireland for approval. Once that occurs, the only remaining option for Ciobanu would be to take a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

Kevin Ankrom, High Performance Director for Athletics Ireland, admitted it had been a difficult decision: “It’s never easy to tell some of the athletes they aren’t selected. I understand their disappointment.”

Meanwhile the Russian government is trying to push through legislation that will make doping a criminal offence by 2017.

The proposed law will focus on administrators, coaches and support staff, as opposed to athletes, with sanctions ranging from fines to prison sentences.

“We understand that we have a huge problem,” said Natalia Zhelanova, an anti-doping advisor to the Russian Sports Ministry.

“It’s not only our problem - we know it’s probably the same in other countries too - but we are only responsible for our country and our issues.”


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