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Czech triathlete given Areosa's spot

8/13/2004

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.