Athletics: Agony goes on for Caitriona Cuddihy

Updated: July 10, 2012

The agony for Caitriona Cuddihy goes on…. As expected the Kilkenny woman has lodged (via her solicitor) an appeal against her de-selection from the Irish Olympic 4 x 400m squad having originally been chosen and even ‘used’ to model the athletes outfits for London and then de-selected.

Cuddihy had – perhaps somewhat surprisingly – been selected in preference to the faster Joanne Mills and the Ballymena athlete had launched an appeal which was upheld by the Athletics Ireland Appeals Tribunal on Saturday.

Cuddihy then asked Athletics Ireland to outline the process by which she could appeal against her removal from the squad and was told to ‘contact the Olympic Council of Ireland’. OCI spokesperson, Jack McGouran said yesterday that Athletics Ireland has been asked – by the OCI – for “full clarification” of the selection process before the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) will decide what, if any, appeal process might be set in motion.

According to usually reliable sources the OCI are themselves unclear as to why Athletics Ireland first named Caitriona Cuddihy among the six-woman team last Tuesday, only then to replace her with Joanne Mills, who successfully appealed this original selection over the weekend. Be that as it may it is a disgrace – and that is putting it mildly – that any amateur athlete should have been subjected to such shameful treatment and humiliation as Caitriona Cuddihy has suffered in the past few days

“The athlete’s legal counsel has been in touch,” the OCI’s Gouran confirmed , “but without full clarification from Athletics Ireland on what exactly went on we can’t proceed with any appeal, if only because the OCI may not even have a role to play here”.

“What we need first is for them to explain the exact procedure, and method, behind the selection of the original relay team, and why this was then overturned on appeal. We can’t do anything until we have that full explanation. We don’t know if they’ve broken any of their own internal rules, or if there is any legal issue here, or what exactly the due process here is. So at this stage we can’t even say if we’ll be getting involved at all.”

Athletics Ireland and the O.C.I know that Friday July 13th is the date by which all associations have to lodge the list of their athletes to the London Olympic Organising Committee (LOCOG),so there is little time available to sort out a mess created by Athletics Ireland.

The Woodies DIY National Track and Field Championships help at Santry Stadium on Saturday and Sunday last is without doubt Ireland’s premier athletics meet of the season so why oh why did the Athletics Ireland selectors name their London 2012 team BEFORE those championships took place. Such an action has baffled the athletes and no doubt upset sponsors Woodies DIY. The leader of the Irish 4 x 400 m squad, Caitriona’s sister, Joanna Cuddihy – and several other athletes – have questioned this too.

“Hats off to Caitriona for putting her chin up today and just running with the pressure of the world on her shoulders,” Joanne Cuddihy told the ‘Irish Independent’ adding “The relay (situation) has been heart-wrenching for her and for absolutely everyone on the team, it’s just been unfair.

“I’m just a bit baffled by the whole thing. So many things should, and could, have been done differently. The way it’s happened has just been cruel.”

Indeed many of the Athletes had expressed surprise when Athletics Ireland named the Olympic 4x400m team early last week before nationals, which were the official selection deadline.

Mills, was like Caitriona Cuddihy, one of two relay reserves who didn’t get to run at the Europeans and was most unhappy that she had been dropped from the squad in the circumstances.

She successfully appealed her non-selection to Athletics Ireland on Saturday, arguing that, on times, she had the sixth-fastest 400m time in Ireland this season (54.41) and, as a result, Caitriona Cuddihy — with a season best of 54.59 — was deselected.

Ireland’s Olympic chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan is another who believes that it would have been better to pick the team after seeing them all race at the Nationals.

“The AAI have shown themselves to be amateurish — they made the mistake and now they’ve wrecked it for two girls instead of just one,” Mills’ coach Ian Neely told the ‘Independent’..

“Caitriona is feeling the same way that Joanna felt just four days ago and that’s not nice. Joanna is obviously pleased that she is going but she feels for Caitriona too.

“It was mistake after mistake and two people are mentally scarred because of the whole thing.”

This whole shambles is of Athletics Ireland’s own making and the AI selection committee and board should do the honourable thing and resign ‘en bloc’.

Athletics Ireland said yesterday that “as the process of selection and appeal is on-going, we do not consider it appropriate to comment further or to engage in discussion about the selection”.

The statement continued : “Athletics Ireland is very aware of how difficult the events of the past week have been for all involved in the sport and particularly those seeking selection in this event.”

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