South Africa's Olympic governing body says it has been forced to include horse rider Alex Peternell in the Olympic team, two days after the country's lone equestrian entry was withdrawn.
Tubby Reddy, chief executive of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), said in a statement on Wednesday that the national Olympic body had been told by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to include Peternell in the eventing discipline for the London Games, which officially opens on Friday.
“This is the second attempt by Mr Peternell to take Sascoc and the SAEF (SA Equestrian Federation) to CAS,” Reddy said.
“As we all know, this athlete has been based in the United Kingdom for the last 11 years consecutively and we have now been instructed to include him in the equestrian discipline of eventing.
“It is indeed a very sad day for us as a country to be instructed to select an athlete into Team South Africa against our will, but being a disciplined member of the Olympic movement we have no option but to adhere fully to this decision.”
On Saturday, CAS ruled in favour of Peternell, ranked 164th in the world, who objected to Paul Hart's selection on the grounds that Hart was ranked 442nd in the world.
Hart, who left with Team South Africa last week, was withdrawn by Sascoc from the Games.
Reddy said on Monday the SAEF maintained that Hart had been the “correct choice” and a decision was made not to fill South Africa's place in the eventing discipline.
Peternell returned to CAS, again appealing the decision, and again he was successful in his bid for inclusion.
“To Paul Hart, all I can say is that as Sascoc we tried assiduously and to the best of our ability to support you in your quest for Olympic representation and in fact challenged CAS twice in this process, indicating that it is our belief that your selection was in fact a fair process,” Reddy said.
“Unfortunately with this ruling of CAS we cannot deviate in any way whatsoever as this ruling gives a clear indication that the selection of Mr Peternell has been made by CAS, and we are now implementing their decision.
“It is with regret that one of our loyal countrymen, Paul Hart has to bear the brunt of this sad situation.”
Reddy said a number of comments had been posted on Sascoc's website in support of Hart's inclusion ahead of Peternell.
“This decision is unfortunate as it forces upon the South African public an athlete that they do not necessarily recognise and one that they do not necessarily support,” he said.
“While this whole affair is regrettable, for the sake of the Olympic Games it is important to move forward and focus our energies on the job on hand and concentrate on our team's preparation.” - Sapa