Less than three weeks before they were to represent Cuba at the Olympics, two champion boxers applied for asylum in San Diego on Monday, becoming political rather than athletic symbols.
"This was a purely political decision," said Al Rogers, a spokesman for the law firm representing Ramon Garbey and Joel Casamayor, both 22. "They very easily could have won the gold and then defected, but they chose not to fight Castro's war."
Garbey and Casamayor slipped away last week during free time while the 12-member Cuban team was training in Mexico.
For the past few days the boxers worked closely with Frank Ronzio, an immigration attorney and boxing manager. They met in a hotel in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico, to discuss their options, Rogers said.
"We did our homework. We wanted this to be dealt with in a smooth, professional matter," Rogers said.
The only snag came Sunday night when the men appeared at the San Ysidro port of entry to turn themselves in, and the office did not have an asylum officer on duty, according to Rogers and another spokesperson for the men.