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Sunday, September 24, 2000

He deserved to dive

 SYDNEY - Thanks. For nothing.

 "I wasted a lot of people's time about a diver like me,'' said Arturo Miranda. "I am a small fish. It is not about the athlete. It is about politics. But I am a big fish, too. Everybody in Canada supported me.

 "I am very angry at the result. It was never about the individual. It was about politics. And I am very amazed at the effort by everybody and very, very happy that this effort would be made for somebody like me just in the country to go to the last hour and the last minute.''

 Arturo Miranda is out of the Olympics.

 His final appeal to the International Court Of Arbitration For Sport was rejected. He will be replaced in the event, which begins here tomorrow, by Alex Despatie.

 What a total travesty.

 THE MIRANDA RULE?

 While it will almost certainly result in the rewriting of Rule 46 in the Olympic Charter, and while it will probably become known as the Miranda Rule, that didn't put the Edmonton diver on the three-metre springboard.

 And as for the Cubans, if Miranda could do it all over again, he wouldn't have left Cuba legally.

 "If I could have competed, I would have defected instead,'' he said.

 That's what happened here.

 Angel Perez, the American kayaker, got into the Olympics because he defected. Miranda didn't get in because he didn't defect.

 "It was an identical case,'' said Canadian diving coach Mitch Geller. "The timelines of both leaving Cuba are almost exactly the same. Both cases went to the court two times. Perez was allowed to compete because the American's case was that when he defected that left him stateless and therefore he became a national.''

 Miranda married a Canadian working in Cuba. He went by the rules. He waited the necessary three years of landed immigrant status and became a Canadian citizen a year ago.

 "Our big mistake is that we did everything legally,'' said Geller.

 "Because we did everything legally, he doesn't get into the Olympic Games. It's beyond me. It's beyond Arturo. It is beyond everybody who supported us.

 "We were all just crushed this morning when we found out the verdict. The decision defies common sense.''

 Mark Lowry of the Canadian Olympic Association said a lot of things never came into play.

 "There was not a capacity to move past the rigidity of the rules,'' he said. "There was no compassion for the athlete. We're extremely sad we can't have him diving. Arturo has gone through hell with this.''

 So is almost everybody involved with the Canadian Olympic Team here.

 Next to nobody here has any sympathy or compassion for Eric Lamaze or Robin Lyons not being able to compete in these Olympics.

 But that's not the way it is with this guy. Plain and simple, Arturo Miranda has been hosed by the system. And he's one guy who, I believe, was let down by his country.

 Sheila Copps managed to get one meeting with the Cubans. But she couldn't get them to dinner with her. I'm not easily convinced that Copps pulled out all the stops. I kept hearing how hard she was working on this case and I kept reading notices on the Canadian media bulletin of the various venues where she might be found at various times of day for a photo-op.

 Canada has had a healthy political relationship with Cuba. Maybe it's ridiculous to rethink something like that because of a three-metre diver. But ...

 "They showed complete disrespect for our top politicians. They had no interest in looking at the case,'' said Geller. "I thought we had a good relationship with Cuba. It's disappointing to find out we didn't.''

 DIDN'T GET JOB DONE

 The bottom line is that they didn't get the job done. Cuba didn't lift the embargo.

 "If the prime minister wanted to be an instant hero all he had to do was make one phone call to Fidel Castro,'' said Herb Flewelling, Miranda's Edmonton-based diving coach.

 Cuba hosed this poor kid when he was diving for Cuba.

 He'd made the 1992 Barcelona Olympic team but the Cubans left him home because they had to cut back on expenses.

 Well, he didn't have a hope for a medal here either. But he deserved to dive.

 "It became very clear last night at court that the Cubans had dug their heels in,'' said Geller. "They saw this as their Waterloo.''

 Miranda wasn't going to win a medal for Canada here. He probably wouldn't have made it into the top 10.

 But, damn it, he deserved to dive.