Mountain biker Chris Jongewaard was on Monday chosen for Australia’s Olympic team as Cycling Australia nominated him after a tribunal ruling that upheld an appeal against his omission.
A Cycling Australia Appeals Tribunal last Friday backed the country’s top-ranked mountain biker who contested the controversial decision to leave him off CA’s list of nominated riders on character grounds. The tribunal had referred the nomination decision back to CA for review.
CA’s High Performance Committee originally decided not to approve selectors’ decision to pick Jongewaard. The star is facing several driving-related offences following an incident in February last year that left fellow cyclist Matthew Rex with severe head injuries.
The tribunal said the committee did not have enough material to make its decision as to whether it honestly believed Jongewaard had met all the requirements of the selection criteria, while it had also failed to properly implement the criteria. The tribunal also expressed the legal view that a decision on the conduct of an athlete could only be made “in the absolute discretion” of the President of the Australian Olympic Committee or by the Games’ team Chef de Mission.
The committee said in a statement that under the circumstances it felt there was sufficient doubt as to the authority of CA to exclude Jongewaard on character grounds, suggesting a successful defence in any subsequent hearing could not be assured.
The committee agreed to recognise the tribunal’s decision to uphold the appeal and said it has now nominated Jongewaard to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection, replacing Daniel McConnell.
Jongewaard is due in court in December to answer charges arising from last year’s incident, which saw Rex put into an induced coma for more than a week before his recovery.
© AFP 2008