Fencer sues Sascoc for R5.5-million for failing to enter her into Rio Olympics

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The basis of her claim challenges Sascoc’s controversial policy to reject all avenues of continental qualification for the Olympics across all codes.

The only exceptions were football and cycling.

Barrett won the women’s epee competition at the zonal African qualifying tournament in Algeria in April last year‚ and the Fencing Federation of SA recommended to Sascoc that she be entered for the Olympics.

Barrett alleges that Sascoc “intentionally‚ alternatively negligently‚ and wrongfully” failed to enter her before the June 6 deadline to submit Olympic entries.

She argues in her particulars of claim that according to its own constitution‚ Sascoc has the power to select‚ “on recommendation from the relevant national sports federations”‚ teams for international multi-sport competitions.

“Thus‚ properly construed‚ if recommended by a national sports federation‚ [Sascoc] is obliged to select an individual and/or multi-sport team.”

She points out that an athlete‚ or team‚ must fulfil three conditions to get to an Olympics — they must qualify in terms of criteria set out by the international sports federations‚ then they must be recommended by their national federations and then they must be entered into the Games by their National Olympic Committee.

Sascoc signed selection agreements with each of the national federations in the build-up to the Games‚ which stipulated that African qualifiers would not be accepted.

But Barrett insists this was invalid because the Fencing Federation of SA president did not have the authority to sign the agreement‚ and it further “unlawfully denuded” the federation’s power to select and recommend athletes to Sascoc.

She further argues that the international fencing federation’s four zonal qualifying tournaments were not strictly continental tournaments‚ because some regions were combined.

Barrett says even if Sascoc had the right to both select and enter athletes‚ it had a legal duty to “fairly apply its mind in deciding whether to select and enter [her]” and “not act arbitrarily‚ capriciously and/or irrationally”.

Calculating damages‚ Barrett says she was awarded a $70‚000 (nearly R1-million) annual sponsorship for study and training prior to the Rio Games‚ but failure to participate at Rio 2016 had diminished her prospects of receiving a similar sponsorship for the four-year build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

To try qualify for the next Games‚ she would also need to compete in 80% of annual tournaments in South Africa and internationally‚ which she worked out at a further R452‚400 per year.

The Fencing Federation of SA is named as the second defendant in the case‚ but no relief is being sought from them because Barrett’s team believes they did everything possible to get her to the Olympics.

Sascoc spokesperson Jessica Choga said they would defend the action if the matter court goes to court.

“SASCOC has nothing to say about the issue at hand. As the macro sports body we applied the rules so if taken to court we will defend‚” Choga said.

If successful‚ the case would have far-reaching consequences‚ not only in terms of SA’s qualification requirements for Tokyo 2020‚ but also those who were not selected for Rio 2016.

Barrett was not the only casualty of Sascoc’s policy‚ others being the men’s and women’s hockey teams‚ as well as the women’s rugby sevens side.

Athlete Johan Cronje‚ a 1500m bronze medallist at the 2013 world championships‚ won a wild card entry into the Games‚ another qualification route not recognised by Sascoc.

And what about sprinter Akani Simbine‚ who finished fifth in the 100m final in Brazil‚ but was overlooked for selection in the 200m where he might have won a medal?

– TMG Digital

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