Abdalla files appeal at Sports Tribunal against Rio Olympics exclusion

By francis marangu
Jul 28, 2016
  • Hamadan Bayusuf in a past event.

Kenyan swimmer Hamdan Bayusuf may have already landed in Rio de Janeiro in readiness for the 2016 Olympic Games but his participation remains uncertain.

Fellow swimmer Issa Abdalla has challenged his selection at the Sports Disputes Tribunal in a petition lodged on July 22 under certificate of urgency.

He has sued Kenya Swimming Federation (KSF) and its chairman Ben Ekumbo. Abdalla maintained the appeal is relevant since the swimming competition has not started.

By the time Bayusuf left the country on Sunday with the first batch of Team Kenya, Abdalla had already filed his petition to appeal a decision by KSF to hand him the sole men’s ticket.

Abdalla claims that the federation overlooked him despite ranking higher in the FINA point system.

The tribunal’s panel of Chairman John Ohaga, Vice-chairperson Ellyna Shiveka and Gichuru Kiplagat sat on Thursday to hear the matter and will deliver a ruling on Friday. At the hearing, Abdalla was represented by lawyer Caxstone Kigata who faulted the selection criteria used by KSF.

The decision on final selection was made on July 12 by KSF and Kigata maintained that his client was never given a formal notification. The tribunal questioned him on why it took 10 days to appeal but he said it was occasioned by late communication from FINA.

“The decision being appealed is touching on selection misconduct by the respondents to axe my client from the Olympics squad,” he submitted.

“We maintain that no copy of the decision has been availed to the appellant. He came to know of this through email correspondences with KSF. It's only fair that they should have communicated in writing and with reasons for their decision.” 

Bayusuf is in Rio 

Kigata further argued that the selection process was not transparent and lacked accountability in regards to the men’s team.

“The appellant holds that selection of the names forwarded to FINA was done in an opaque manner. The process should be as transparent as possible and persons being excluded duly informed,”

Kigata told the tribunal saying the selection should be reversed. “The whole process was crowded in mystery and was secretive.

The appellant prays that the process of selecting the men’s team to Rio be suspended.” The main question that Abdalla wants answered is why KSF settled for Bayusuf who has 646 points and overlooked him with 655 points. “Clearly, we are sacrificing merit at the altar of meeting deadlines,” Kigata said.

“There has been no explanation why they chose to select a swimmer with lesser points than my client.”

Appearing for KSF, first vice chairman Patrick Muyah explained that none of the five top Kenyan swimmers met the qualification time. He said they were given two slots by FINA and KSF did due diligence in the final selection.

Abdalla stands better chance 

“The process was not breached in any way particularly on the selection of Bayusuf. Since none met the qualification time, we were left with the decision of universality places and we had a tough time choosing two swimmers from the five since it's a complex consideration of many factors.”

Muyah said seniority was one of the factors considered in favouring Bayusuf over Abdalla.

“Abdalla being younger, he has more chances for other events including the upcoming world championships in Canada.” Bayusuf was born in September 1994 while Abdalla was born in March 1995.

Muyah was put to task by the tribunal after admitting that FINA points were not part of the consideration.

“We wanted somebody who would better the national record. Even if we considered points and selected Abdalla, Bayusuf would have probably appealed saying he has better credentials.”

The decision to go for a backstroke swimmer where Kenya has not been fielding swimmers in the past equally raised questions from the tribunal members.

“Why did you pick on specifically backstroke? Is it because you wanted a specific swimmer to go to Rio?,” Ellyna Shiveka asked after Muyah admitted that Abdalla is not good in backstroke. In reply, Muyah said KSF wanted to balance their selection this time round and that there was no discrimination against any swimmer.

“Backstroke was not part of the selection process. In previous years, we have sent swimmers to major events without considering backstroke and breaststroke but we decided to pick on backstroke this time to balance,” he explained.

“It was a boardroom decision to help sieve the five swimmers. We had asked our competition secretary to give us a comparison table for all swimmers and Bayusuf came out as the best in backstroke. The executive committee had latitude of discretion in such decisions because it is our interest to promote swimming locally”