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Friday, August 13, 2004
Czech triathlete given Areosa's spot

Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal -- The Portuguese Athletics Federation appealed an International Triathlon Union decision to withdraw Portugal's Maria Areosa from the Games after admitting it erred when deciding who qualified.

Areosa was originally told she replaced Christiane Pilz of Germany after Pilz dropped out. The spot should have gone to Lucia Zelenkova of the Czech Republic, who was ahead of Areosa in the triathlon rankings.

The International Olympic Committee informed Portugal on Thursday that the triathlon union decided Zelenkova should go instead.

"This is pure incompetence by the International Triathlon Union," federation president Jose Luis Ferreira said Friday. "I can even believe the Czech Republic's athlete is ahead of her, but you don't tell an athlete that has been practicing hard for four years that she can go to the Olympics and then take that away from her a day before the games begin."

It was the second time Areosa was turned down because of administrative mistakes.

The 19-year-old athlete appeared to have qualified for Athens last May in the Triathlon World Championship at Madeira, but four days later she was excluded after corrections in the points ranking.

On Monday, Areosa was officially going to the Olympics but on Thursday she was once again excluded.

"An unfortunate error by an overworked technical team has resulted in a reassessment of the replacement for Christiane Pilz," the ITU said in a statement. "Maria Areosa of Portugal was initially informed that she had the spot ... the truth is that the spot should be offered to the Czech Republic because of the rank of Lucia Zelenkova."

Portugal still has Vanessa Fernandes competing in the triathlon, which begins Aug. 25 with 100 athletes entering for the swimming, cycling and running events.