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WTA: Boycott Unlikely Over Germans' Exclusion

August 05, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

The Women's Tennis Assn. is exploring options to protest the exclusion of German players Marlene Weingartner and Anca Barna from the upcoming Olympics in Athens, but apparently a boycott won't be one of those measures.

Larry Scott, the WTA's chief executive, held a meeting with a group of players on Wednesday night at the tour stop in Montreal, and urged against skipping the Olympics. Some players had told the Toronto Globe and Mail that action might be possible.

"I'd like to think that the majority of players are convinced, based on the conversation I had with them tonight, that would not be in the best interest of women's tennis or sport," Scott said in a telephone interview. "I think we think it's better for the image of sport and the image of our players to participate in the Olympics."

Scott said the WTA could withdraw ranking points attached to the Olympics as one possible step of protest. He said the likelihood of Weingartner and Barna participating was "very slim" at this late stage, despite appeals to the International Olympic Committee.

The issue came to a head when the German Olympic Committee kept Weingartner and Barna off the team by imposing stricter qualifying standards. The International Tennis Federation nominated Weingartner, ranked 46th, and Barna, 52nd, on the July 15 list. But the Germans then said they had to either reach the semifinal of a Grand Slam event or the final of a Tier I tournament. Then that same criteria was put aside in the case of Florian Mayer of Germany, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and will be allowed to play in Athens.

"These two players that have worked their whole year to qualify for the Olympics, deserve to play and have been denied that opportunity for arbitrary reasons," Scott said.

"They've raised the bar significantly to the point of being ridiculous."

Weingartner, though heartened by the support of her colleagues, said the last few weeks have been stressful. "I'm really struggling," she said in a telephone interview from Montreal.

She said her father, Josef Romulus, missed making the Olympic team in the 1960s in canoeing. Weingartner would have qualified under the standard used for Sydney in 2000.

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