Athletics Ireland deny omitting Sergiu Ciobanu from Rio squad because of his birth-place

Athletics Ireland deny omitting Sergiu Ciobanu from Rio squad because of his birth-place

GOVERNING body Athletics Ireland have refuted claims they omitted an Irish marathon representative from their Olympic Games team due to the country of his birth.

Moldova-born Sergiu Ciobanu was not selected for Ireland’s marathon team for Rio, despite posting a faster qualifying time than Belfast-based athlete Paul Pollock, who made the three-man squad.

As things stand, Pollock will head to Brazil along with Mick Clohisey and Kevin Seaward, but Ciobanu – who has lived in Ireland for over a decade – has appealed against the decision after announcing his disgust on social media.

Ciobanu, 32, subsequently did an interview with The42 in which he accused Athletics Ireland of favouring other runners because of their birth-place rather than their results.

“I feel like the fact I was born in Moldova is what cost me my place,” Cionbanu told The42. “If you look at the team selection, (Athletics Ireland) picked the three fastest women and they didn’t pick the three fastest men.

“I feel like if I was born in Ireland, in the sticks, I would have been selected.

“It’s not about Pollock, it’s not about the three guys that were picked. It’s about me and other athletes being misled as to the qualifying criteria. It’s just really bad what happened.”

Ciobanu finished six places and 24 seconds ahead of Pollock in a race in Berlin last September, but Athletics Ireland has released a statement defending the decision, which was made by a panel of five selectors and then ratified by the Olympic Council.

Athletics Ireland understand the disappointment of athletes who were not selected.

We categorically and completely reject any inference that an athlete’s background was in any way a factor in the decision. The selection process and criteria has been in place since 2015 and communicated to all and has not been changed.

The five-person panel of experienced people, Jim Aughney, Eamon Harvey, Patsy McGonagle, Brid Golden, Paul McNamara with Kevin Ankrom as chair, assessed the situation carefully.

The panel made very difficult decisions given that we were privileged to have to make choices with so many athletes hitting the qualification times.

The decisions were based purely on which athletes the panel believed would deliver the best performances at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

We will deal with the appeals which will be heard by an independent appeal panel.

Ciobanu's appeal is likely to be heard by a three-person panel by the end of this week.