SA rowers back Canadians in their appeal

Time of article published Aug 20, 2004

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Athens - South African men's pair of Donovan Cech and Ramon di Clemente, in the true spirit of the Olympic Games, have put their weight behind the Canadian team in an effort to get their boat re-instated for Saturday's final at 8.30am SA time.

Canadian rower Chris Jarvis said that they had a letter signed by the South African rowers "stating their support for us to race in the final".

This, despite the Canadian heavyweight coxless pair of Jarvis and Dave Calder infringing into the South African lane during Wednesday's second semifinal.

This caused a clash of oars with the South African champions who are strong contenders for a medal.

The Canadians were judged to have impeded the South Africans progress resulting in them finishing fourth. The Canadians finished second, but were disqualified and spent the following 36 hours exhausting all levels of protest and appeal, which has resulted in a two-hour hearing with CAS,

(Court of Arbitration for Sport).

In a dramatic sequel on Thursday, the appeal against the initial disqualification, was heard by the jury of appeal who upheld the umpires ruling.

A second appeal was heard by the Executive Committee of Fisa, (the international rowing federation), who reviewed the actions and decisions of both the umpire and the Board of the Jury.

In the post appeal statement issued on Wednesday evening, the committee confirmed that the umpire correctly applied the only sanction available to him in order to ensure that "the chances of the disadvantaged, (South African), crew was restored. The Executive Committee have considered the appeal and decided that according to rule 79(6), the appropriate measure is to allow the Canadians to compete in Final B on Thursday.

This action would have pitted the crew of Dave Calder and Chris Jarvis against the United States, Italy, Slovakia, and Argentina, to determine the minor placing, but this was not the result the Canadians desired.

In the initial charge it is stated "the umpire warned the Canadian pair to move back into their lane - he continued to warn the Canadian crew for the last 100m but the Canadians did not move out of the South African's lane. The South Africans were clearly disturbed by the Canadian crew".

This would appear to have been a field of play infringement and would not normally be heard by CAS, who tend to leave such technical matters to each sports governing body.

The advocate for the Canadian athletes, Michael Smith, said there are additional issues at stake in this case.

Smith submitted two urgent applications to CAS early on Thursday morning. The first requests interim relief from participation in the B final and the second to be allowed to enter as a seventh boat in the A final - a move that has the support of the South African pair and their coach, Christian Felkel.

"We're going to continue training (on Friday) morning preparing for the race on Saturday - we've trained for so long to get to this race and consider ourselves worthy of this race and hoping that the decision of CAS will allow us to race" said a visibly distressed Chris Jarvis.

"We've trained too long and too hard, just like every other Olympic athlete, and our family, supporters and the general public would be pretty disappointed in us if we didn't fight and exhaust everything in our power to get ourselves into that final. We don't want to take anything from the other six boats racing in the final we just want to be included," said Calder.

The final is set to be an exciting and close run race between Germany, Croatia, Australia, Serbia and Montenegro, New Zealand, and South Africa, and the addition of another boat will reduce the odds on a medal for all of the crews.

Despite this the South African camp have added credence to the case the Canadians presented to CAS.

"Not only does this affect us, but the nature of our sport is such that we are looking to have a race against worthy opponents," said Jarvis.

"We have a letter signed by the South African athlete and coach stating they are in support of what we are trying to do with the appeal. Everyone wants that to be an intense and crazy race where you prove that you have worked hard and not to exclude someone that has clearly demonstrated that they deserve to be in that final," said Jarvis.

"As luck may have it I ran into the south Africans five or six times in the village and I sat with one of them on the bus back home hours after the race, and they have been very supportive," said Jarvis.

"I would like to note that what we did was in no-way intentionally to cheat or affect anyone else, it was a slip at the end of a race when everyone was fatigued and everyone is trying to get their bow across the line.

"As FISA mentioned, it happens often, and in this case it affected a boat right next to us. Had no one else been in that lane we would just have rowed right across the line and there would have been no action. It wasn't intended to hurt; it was just two guys going for the line," explained Calder.

It is understood that FISA has based its case against change to the exclusion of the Canadian team, on the basis that this was a technical infringement, and is a matter relating to the rules of the game.

The action supported by the Canadian Olympic Committee, may charter new waters if it is seen to challenge the technical decisions of a sport's governing body.

However the concept of a seven boat final has precedence and was the ruling applied by the same Board of the Jury on Wednesday in the men's double scull semifinal.

The Norwegian boat was initially adjudged to be 0,1 seconds behind the USA crew, but on review of the photo finish the board declared a dead heat and ruled for a seven boat final.

President of the ad hoc division, Judge RS Pathak, (India), dismissed the first application for interim relief to be excused from the B final. The Canadian team did not line up for the B final at 9.30am. The decision of the CAS panel, which will be final, is expected before noon on Friday. - Sapa

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