By The Weekly Vision Team
The Sports Disputes Tribunal has ruled that swimmer Ridhwan Mohamed be included in the Kenyan team that is set to participate in the 2024 World Aquatics Championships, 21st edition to be held in Doha, Qatar, from February 2 to 18, 2024. Ridhwan Mohamed sued Kenya team officials Maureen Owiti and Collins Marigiri after being excluded from the team.
In his application, Mohamed submitted that he took part in the 2023 Coimbra Swimming Open in Portugal, held between December 14 and December 18, 2023, where he clocked 52.87 seconds in the boy’s 100-meter freestyle. The effect of this result is that it places him higher than previously placed in the rankings used for the selection of the Kenyan team to the 2024 World Aquatics Championships.
In an affidavit by Marigiri in response to Mohamed’s request for review, he stated, “It is confirmed that it was indeed an express term of the 2024 World Aquatics Championships that the entry time would only be accepted if achieved at a World Aquatics approved qualification event within the period 1st October 2022 to 19th December 2023.”
The tribunal noted that among the submissions made were whether there were good governance principles applied in the selection process, the fairness of this process, and whether there was perceived bias and favouritism in the decisions made by the respondents.
The tribunal further noted that it is expected that access to the selection slots is inclusive and wide, without any discrimination. In sports like swimming, it is unfortunate that Kenya does not get as many slots as other countries due to its reliance on the Universality Qualification. It is also unfortunate that certain sports are termed non-core sports and may not benefit from full funding as expected by the Sports Act and through the Sports, Arts, and Social Development Fund.
It is for this reason that the Selection Report issued by the 1st Respondent indicates, for instance, that athletes (or their parents or guardians) would confirm availability in writing not later than November 27, 2023, and would be advised on the sums for air travel, accommodation, and other requirements. Such financial considerations may tend to have an impact on selection or the actual attendance of the selected athletes, but should not at any time be the reason why time would be drastically reduced or depart from the properly set-out selection criteria.
The tribunal further noted that merit in sport is paramount, and federations have a huge obligation to ensure that they make decisions that give weight to the upholding of merit in sport.
The federation was advised to craft decisions for selection in such a way that the best talent is recognized while taking note of other preponderables, such as the effluxion of time in the submission of the selected athletes to the competitions.
The final orders read, “In the circumstances, the Tribunal makes directions as follows: The application for review of the decision rendered on December 11, 2023, by the Tribunal is allowed. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents are directed to consider the time attained by the appellant during the 2023 Coimbra Swimming Open in Portugal in making the final sport entries to be submitted through the Aqua GMS by January 16, 2024, 23:59 GMT. The natural consequence of this order is that the applicant garners points that make him an automatic qualifier.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents are directed to file a report with the Tribunal on January 18, 2024, in compliance with the directions of the Tribunal. Such a report should include steps taken with World Aquatics and any correspondence between the 1st respondent, the appellant, and World Aquatics.
This matter is to be mentioned on January 23, 2024, to confirm that the directions of the Tribunal have been complied with and for orders as to costs.