By Duncan Mackay

Aaron Cook_wins_European_Championships_in_Manchester_May_2012June 8 - Aaron Cook, the world number one, will miss London 2012 after the British Olympic Association (BOA) ratified the decision by British Taekwondo to leave him out of the team, even though they criticised the process and "lack of transparency" involved in the controversial decision.

It means Lutalo Muhammad, a 20-year-old from East London, will represent Team GB in the men's -80 kilograms at London 2012, even though he is ranked 59th in the world and will have to drop down a weight to compete.

The unanimous decision was taken by the BOA's Olympic Qualification Standards (OQS) Panel, which had been convened after British Taekwondo chose not to pick Cook following three selection meetings.

The BOA were represented by a legal representative at the last of the three meetings on Wednesday (June 6), although Cook, a 21-year-old from Dorchester, claimed he and his team had been given less than 24 hours to prepare.

"The decision to ratify the nomination was taken following an extensive review of the selection process followed by British Taekwondo," said the BOA in a statement.  

"The OQS Panel also consulted with the British Olympic Association Board of Directors and the World Taekwondo Federation."

The OQS Pan is chaired by BOA chief executive and Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt and also includes Deputy Chef de Missions Sir Clive Woodward and Mark England and Sarah Winckless, the chair of the BOA Athletes' Commission.

The BOA still reserve the right to change the decision pending the outcome of a World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) inquiry.

But it seems inconceivable that an international governing body would interfere in the selection of a domestic organisation, especially now that the BOA have ratified it.

There was severe criticism of how British Taekwondo had handled the selection process and its lack of transparency, however.

"In ratifying the nomination, the OQS Panel expressed strong disappointment in the manner by which the selection process has been managed by the National Governing Body (NGB); in particular, the undue strain and uncertainty that has been brought upon two world-class athletes," the BOA statement said.

"The OQS Panel also expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the selection process and the inconsistent communication with the two athletes involved."

Under its own rules, the BOA could not force British Taekwondo to choose Cook.

The OQS Panel can only accept or reject athlete nominations; it is not within the remit of the Panel to select individual athletes.

Hunt claimed that British Taekwondo had let down both athletes during the selection process.

"There are two world-class athletes directly impacted by this nomination, and 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," he said. 

"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."

Earlier, Government agency UK Sport had ruled out intervening in the row, even though they are the biggest funder of sport in the country thanks to their distribution of National Lottery funds. 

They warned that if they did it would be against the Olympic Charter, which would mean the International Olympic Committee could take action against Britain.

"Regarding the recent selection decisions, UK Sport would like to emphasise that as a Government agency UK Sport has no jurisdiction, legal or otherwise, to intervene in such decisions or disputes," they said in a statement.

"Any action by UK Sport in this matter would be regarded as direct intervention by Government into the jurisdiction of the British Olympic Association, as the National Olympic Committee; and the National Governing Body, as the independent sports organisation, which is against the Olympic Charter.

"Selection for the Olympic and Paralympic Games can be a difficult and emotive issue for all concerned and with any selection process, from time to time, there will be the inevitable challenges, but we must protect an NGB's right to selection, after all it is in the NGB's best interest to select the athlete and/or athletes they determine will be best placed to deliver medals at the Games.

"NGBs are best placed to make expert decisions relating to athlete performance and it is not a decision any NGB will take lightly."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
June 2012:
 Exclusive - "I've no regrets" says BOA chief as heat grows hotter over Cook
June 2012: World Taekwondo Federation concerned by "lack of transparency" over Cook omission
June 2012: Cook snubbed again as British Taekwondo stand by decision to pick rival
June 2012: Alan Hubbard - What we have now is unseemly bickering over selection processes that bedevils Team GB at the worst possible time
June 2012: Ignoring world number one is "best for the British Olympic team" claim taekwondo officials