Haywood, who was replaced, plans fight

Updated: July 20, 2004, 9:19 PM ET
Associated Pres

Mary McConneloug won her appeal Tuesday to be nominated to the Olympic women's mountain biking team, overturning USA Cycling's selection of Sue Haywood and ending a bizarre process that will likely be remembered more for confusion than accomplishment.

The arbiter ruled that USA Cycling's decision to add 15 points to Haywood's international total -- a decision that pushed her one point ahead of McConneloug in a yearlong battle for the lone women's mountain start position allocated to the Americans for the Athens Games -- wasn't justified.

"We fully support the arbitrator's decision to nominate Mary and feel that she will be a competitive force and fine delegate of the U.S. Olympic team," USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia said in a statement.

McConneloug was in Europe and not immediately available for comment. The arbiter's ruling was confidential and not released.

"She's very excited," said Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for McConneloug's Seven Cycles team. "She's elated, very, very happy. She was going to have a bottle of champagne."

McConneloug's name will formally be added to the official Olympic roster Wednesday. Haywood, however, said she will file an injunction and further contest the decision. The issue was between McConneloug and USA Cycling; Haywood said she never agreed that the arbiter's ruling would be binding.

"It's one thing to not make it. But to be named and get that taken away from you by a clerical error on USA Cycling's part is extremely frustrating," Haywood said. "I got the most points. I earned the most points. And I'm not going to the Olympics?"

The appeal was heard during a conference call Monday.

McConneloug, the No. 2-ranked women's rider in the world, filed the appeal because she believed USA Cycling, in nominating Haywood to the team, did not follow its own criteria -- which states the top-ranked American rider in the International Cycling Union's rankings will be chosen for the Olympics.

The UCI did not award Haywood with any points for a race held in Idaho on July 25, 2003. Official results suggest Haywood would have earned 15 international points with her third-place finish in that event, but USA Cycling officials said those results were never forwarded to the international body's offices.

When choosing which rider to nominate, USA Cycling included those 15 points in Haywood's total -- giving her 1,489 for the year ending July 12, or exactly one more point than McConneloug earned in that span.

"In the spirit of fairness, we decided to include these 15 points since they were omitted from the official international rankings at no fault of the athletes," Bisceglia said.

The arbiter's ruling capped a series of strange occurrences that marred the entire selection process.

USA Cycling planned to name its Olympic mountain bike roster July 13, two days after the final international qualifying event and one day after it presumed the UCI would update its world rankings.

But no new rankings were released until July 15, because of what the UCI identified only as technical problems.

Clouding the matter further was that those rankings reflected the year beginning July 14, 2003 -- one day after Haywood scored 120 points in an international race. Points figure into a racer's ranking for exactly one year, meaning on July 14, Haywood trailed McConneloug by 134 points in official rankings.

USA Cycling ultimately erred in adding the disputed 15 points, the American Arbitration Association ruled.