CATRIONA CUDDIHY HAS been reinstated into Ireland’s 4x400m Olympic relay squad following a successful appeal, bringing an end to a messy saga which has overshadowed the final weeks of the team’s preparations.
The decision by the Olympic Council of Ireland’s Appeal Tribunal was confirmed this morning following a hearing in Dublin city centre last Thursday evening, 19 July.
With just three days to go until the Games officially open, the tribunal’s verdict appears to have signaled the end of Joanna Mills’s hopes of competing in London.
If she wishes, the young Ballymena star can now take her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Failing that, Cuddihy will now join her sister Joanne, Michelle Carey, Claire Bergin, Marian Heffernan and Jessie Barr in the Irish squad.
Mills, 19, was originally successful in her appeal for a place in the six-woman team after she convinced the Athletics Ireland Appeal Panel (AIAP) that they had not correctly applied their selection criteria in choosing Cuddihy, 25, over her.
The athletes’ overall relay experience and overall experience in major championships were the two main criteria on which the appeal and counter-appeal were contested.
Mills’ original appeal was upheld by the AIAP after it found that the initial selection of Cuddihy had taken too narrow a view of this criteria, ignoring her international performances at youth and junior level.
However, following Thursday night’s hearing the OCI Appeal Tribunal found in Cuddihy’s favour and backed the initial decision, a statement this morning said.
The Appeal Tribunal found that process for the original selection by the AI High Performance Relay Selectors had been carried out in a fair and proportionate manner. The AIAP in reaching its decision differed with the interpretation of the Selectors in the application of two of the eight selection criteria for the Women’s relay team on the grounds that their application had been too narrowly applied.
The Tribunal in reviewing the selection criteria and the AIAP decision found that it did not agree with the AIAP conclusions.
The Tribunal found that the Selectors did follow and apply the selection policy outlined in the Relay Programme and did so with diligence and acumen.
Examining the AIAP’s decision, the Appeal Tribunal found that their interpretation of overall relay experience was “narrow”.
Regarding Mills’ major championship experience at junior level, the Tribunal found the AIAP’s emphasis on this factor to be “disproportionate” in relation to the other athletes on the team and their contribution.
“Based on these findings the Tribunal upheld the appeal of Catriona Cuddihy, and her original nomination to the OCI as an athlete on the Women’s 4 x 400m relay is reinstated.”