Irish Marathon Runner Sergiu Ciobanu – Decision by Court of Arbitration for Sport to Reject Appeal Against Athletics Ireland 2016 Rio Olympics Team Selection

Galligan Johnston Solicitors had the great honour of representing the Irish international marathon runner, Sergiu Ciobanu in his appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Switzerland against Athletic Association of Ireland Limited & Olympic Council of Ireland concerning his omission from the Ireland 2016 Rio Olympics men’s marathon team. While the noting that the result was disappointing for Sergiu, Sam Saarsteiner, Partner, stated that Mr. Ciobanu’s decision to appeal ‘will in time result in much greater transparency in terms of the selection criteria and a more robust implementation of those policies.  This can only serve to improve the treatment of Irish athletes and the sport overall in Ireland’.

An Irish citizen, Sergiu has represented Ireland as a marathon and cross country runner at international level. Having previously sought and narrowly missed qualification for the London 2012 Olympic Games, he participated in the Athletics Ireland official qualifying process to represent Ireland at the Rio 2016 Games and received extensive support (including from Athletics Ireland) to that end.

The qualification process consisted of three performance windows in which marathon athletes could attempt to achieve the required Olympic Games entry standard qualifying time for nomination by Athletics Ireland to be selected by the Olympic Council of Ireland for Team Ireland. As part of this process, Sergiu ran the Berlin Marathon in September 2015, finishing as the second fastest Irish male and achieving the required Olympic qualification time. At the end of the overall qualification process, Sergiu was ranked as the third fastest Irish male marathon runner. However, he was not selected as part of the three marathon runners to represent Ireland in Rio.

Sergiu initially engaged in the Athletics Ireland internal appeal process to seek clarity on and appeal his exclusion from the team. This process, which did not include an oral hearing, failed to provide Sergiu with reasons for his omission from the team and this lack of clarity led him to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Commenting on the decision, Sergiu Ciobanu stated: “I am very disappointed not to have the opportunity to represent Ireland at the 2016 Olympics, a country I have called home since 2006.   Having run for Ireland in the past, I was hopeful that my recent performances as per the Athletics Ireland qualification guidelines, together with my track record would enable me to run for my country. That said, I fully respect the decision of CAS and certainly wish each and every member of the Irish marathon team every success at Rio and have no doubt that they will represent Ireland with pride.  I also look forward to continuing my close relationship with Athletics Ireland over the next four years as I set my sights on Tokyo 2020. 

I took this necessary action to highlight the lack of clarity that I believe currently exists for many Irish athletes, all of whom make great sacrifices to represent their country. I will continue to seek to represent Ireland and I would call on Athletics Ireland to ensure greater transparency and clarity in their qualification requirements to safeguard athletes in the future. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my family and all those who have supported me in my appeal.”  

We here in Galligan Johnston Solicitors certainly wish Sergiu all the best for Tokyo 2020.

Irish Times 22nd July 2016