September 3 - The dispute over the recent election for places on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission is heading for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) announced today that it is to appeal to the Swiss-based body over last month's decision by the IOC to withdraw Japanese hammer-thrower Koji Murofushi (pictured top) from this election.
insidethegames understands that the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of another disqualified athlete – Mu-yen Chu, an Olympic gold medallist in taekwondo from Chinese Taipei – is expected imminently to follow suit.
The IOC recently told insidethegames that the so-called "window" for appeals relating to this election would close on September 3, suggesting that today is the last day on which it is possible for the affected athletes to act.
Both Chu and Murofushi secured enough votes to win places on the influential Commission, only to have their scores chalked off for alleged breaches of strict rules governing electoral campaigning – allegations that are denied by both athletes.
"I have done my utmost as an athlete who shows the spirit of fair play," Murofushi, who is also an Olympic gold medallist, said today.
"My respect toward the IOC has not changed, but I must stress that I did not break the rules.
"I believe that.
"For myself, confirming this is extremely important."
Chu recently described the accusations – including that he may have violated the rules by handing out lollipops to promote his candidature – as "groundless", adding that the "unjust result" had "damaged my social image, my professional reputation" and "my faith in such venerable establishments as the IOC and its Athletes' Commission".
The Taiwanese athlete has already sought to lodge an appeal with the IOC Athletes' Commission Election Committee, only to be told that the decision to withdraw him from the election was "not appealable to the IOC".
The move on Murofushi's behalf is a courageous step by the JOC at a time when the country's Olympic leaders are campaigning hard for Tokyo to be awarded the right to stage the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Early Japanese media reports suggest that the JOC is attempting to tread a narrow path that stops short of outright confrontation.
It is reported that the JOC believes there has been a "misinterpretation" of the rules and may be willing to compromise.
"We cannot swallow this decision whole," Yoshiji Nogami, who heads the JOC's election project committee, is reported as saying by Kyodo News.
"There has been a misinterpretation between the parties.
"There was not enough time to verify the facts.
"We want the rules to be clarified.
"We do not believe this will influence our bid to host the Olympics."
JOC President and newly elected IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda said: "We examined this matter from several different angles and concluded that we should file an appeal.
"It wasn't possible to have a satisfactory confirmation of the difference in interpretation with the IOC in a short period of time.
"Through the appeal, we hope to clear up the facts in how our opinions differ."
The controversial election overshadowed the final days of the London 2012 Olympic Games, with a human kangaroo at one point joining lollipops at the heart of a surrealistic dispute over the fairness of the outcome.
One consequence of the controversy was to delay confirmation of the four athletes elected onto the Commission – Danka Barteková from Slovakia, James Tomkins from Australia, Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe and Tony Estanguet from France – as IOC members.
It remains to be seen if this fresh twist in the saga substantially extends this delay.
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