By JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press
The Canadian casualties have begun, two months before the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sydney, and you know more bloodshed awaits.
Two players on the eight-member national badminton team named in May were ruled ineligible yesterday following a marathon conference call involving Badminton Canada, the Canadian Olympic Association, the players, their lawyers and adjudicator Richard McLaren of London.
Charmaine Reid of St. Catharines and Denyse Julien of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., were deemed not to have achieved the COA standard.
"These are always difficult decisions," said McLaren, who recently ruled the controversial "shark's skin" suits are acceptable for the Olympic swimming competition after the Australian Olympic Association sought arbitration. "The athletes had met the Badminton Canada standard and the International Badminton Federation standard, but had not met the COA standard."
Badminton Canada spent $250,000 sending athletes around the world in the past year. Both Reid and Julien are competitive in singles and doubles, and the badminton body felt it could include them. Essentially, they were qualified by the COA in doubles, the IBF in singles, and their association sought team inclusion to participate in singles.
The COA contended they hadn't reached the standard required for the event in which the team would use them. Their inclusion would have leap-frogged them past a higher-rated singles player in world rankings, Kara Solmundson of Winnipeg, who made the standard and wasn't in danger of losing her place.
There's always a pretty good run-up in the agony and ecstasy department of the Olympics. In the weeks leading to the Sept. 15 opening in Sydney, there will be more Canadians sidelined by standards demanded for their sport, if not by injury.
London heptathlete Catharine Bond-Mills and decathlon star Mike Nolan of Dorchester are like many athletes who have yet to make their sport's team. Both are expected to easily clear the COA points standard at the Canadian Track and Field Championships early next month.
For McLaren, it's never easy to make a ruling that can have crushing impact on people whose Olympic career window is very narrow. But the UWO professor, who has done extensive salary arbitration involving NHL players, deals with rules as they exist, not as they should or might be.
"Naturally, you're sympathetic to the individual. Interestingly, athletes handle (bad news) better than most."
McLaren, counsel for London law firm MacKewn Winder Kirwin, has no other Canadian cases on his plate but is working on a decision relating to long-distance swimming, which has some fascinating overtones. The top two marathon swimmers in the world, a Spaniard and a Czech, tested with high levels of testosterone in their systems. Their defence is they ate the kidneys and livers of uncastrated boars, and that can produce a positive test.
McLaren is the only Canadian on a committee that will hear cases during the Olympics. The 12-member panel, selected from 150 members from around the world on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, will resolve issues that arise during the games, such as that of Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He showed traces of marijuana and his gold medal was taken away. The committee ruled there were no international ski federation rules in place on the substance and the gold was returned. Had the system been in place when Sylvie Frechette was denied gold over a judging mishap, she would have received it on the spot.