By Phil Marques, Special to VeloNews
Nicole Freedman, the 2000 U.S. national road champion and Sydney U.S. Olympic team member, filed an appeal Saturday against the UCI with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The appeal takes issue with the Team Basis rider’s latest UCI ranking, which in effect prevents Israel from sending anyone to the elite women’s road race in the Athens Olympic Games this August.
Freedman, who holds dual citizenship with Israel and the United States, says her UCI point total is off by three.
According to UCI Olympic rules, since Israel is ranked outside of the top 21 nations in the world for women, Israel could only have qualified for a single start position in the Athens road race, had one of its women been ranked in the top 100 of the UCI rankings on April 30, 2004.
On May 1, Freedman found herself ranked 101st in the world, with 20 UCI points, bumped out of the top 100 by a half-point. Her appeal states she was wrongfully deprived of three points she should have received for finishing second in the 2003 Israel national championships held back on June 28.
According to UCI rule 2.14.009, all national championships award UCI points for top placings even if the race itself is not UCI-sanctioned. The exact number of points depends on the country’s ranking in January of the same year and is different for both men and women.
Those three UCI points, Freedman argues, would have given her a total of 23 points and boosted her world ranking to 92nd by the April 30 cut-off. Israel would then have been eligible to send a single starter to the elite women’s road race in Athens. Freedman hoped to be that rider.
However, the UCI informed Freedman she was ineligible for those points because she did not designate Israel on her license as her official nationality, but rather the United States, which Freedman says was only an administrative oversight. Freedman says she had applied for an Israeli license prior to the Israeli nationals, but was wrongfully denied one by the UCI. Freedman eventually did obtain an Israeli license and rode in the 2003 world championships for that country.
UCI rule 1.1.033 does permit a rider to change nationalities if they acquire a new one.
Freedman contends in her appeal, filed electronically via e-mail with the CAS offices in both Manhattan and Switzerland, that she in fact was an Israeli citizen during the 2003 Israeli national championships and was therefore entitled to an Israeli license and the three points.
Leah Goldstein, originally from Canada, won the Israeli national title and Shani Bloch finished third. Both held Israeli licenses at the time and were citizens of Israel, but neither is ranked in the top 100.
The only other way for Israel to have qualified a female rider for the road race in Athens was if one of its riders had placed in the top nine in the 2003 “B” World Championships held last July in Aigle, Switzerland. But Freedman was ineligible to participate in the B World Championships because she had one UCI point at that time. UCI rules prohibit riders with UCI points from participating in the B worlds.
Israel’s top finisher in the B worlds, Nina Pekerman, only managed 25th.
“Believe me, we wanted to get me or Leah [Goldstein] into B world’s,” noted Freedman yesterday from her home in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Yoni Yarom, President of the Israel national federation, supports Freedman in her appeal.
But Freedman says, “The UCI told him [Yoni] quite directly a couple of times that they would not do it [award the three points] because I was not an official Israeli rider at the time.”
So far, Austria, 22nd in the world, was the only nation outside of the top 21 to qualify a rider for the women’s road race in Athens by having one of its riders ranked in the top 100: Christianne Soeder, who is ranked 63rd. As a result of Soeder’s ranking, UCI rules stipulate that the nation ranked 21st, Belgium, lost one of their two allocated start positions in the road race. The rule is meant to keep the women road racers at the Games capped at 67.
Should Freedman be successful in her appeal, Belarus, ranked 20th, would lose one of its two qualifying spots to Israel in the Athens women’s road race.
However, even if Freedman wins her appeal, Israel would not be required to select Freedman as its sole rider in the Athens road race. Israel can also opt not to send anyone to the Games.
“Israel is being more stringent this time,” says Freedman. “They have a philosophy that they don’t just want to send athletes to the Olympics. They want them to have a good chance of winning.”