PENRITH, Australia (AP) _ The Doktor is in.

Martin Doktor of the Czech Republic won an appeal Thursday (Wednesday night EDT) and will get to defend his Olympic title in the finals of the men's 500-meter solo canoe event.

The off-water ruling was the biggest news on the first of two days of semifinals. There were no U.S. boats competing, although four will be in action Friday (Thursday night EDT).

One American boat, the men's K-4 featuring Angel Perez, already has earned a spot in the finals. That quad is considered the United States' best chance to earn its first canoe-kayak sprint medal since 1992.

International Canoe Federation officials did not immediately comment on the decision to reinstate Doktor. The Czech team and the Germans who sought to have Doktor kicked out were involved in semifinals and also could not immediately comment.

Doktor won the men's C-1 500- and 1,000-meter titles in Atlanta and followed with world championships in the 500 in 1997 and '98. He was second in the 1,000 in '97 and '99.

Doktor was second to Germany's Andreas Dittmer in a first-round heat in the 1,000 on Tuesday, then again in the 500 on Wednesday. He was thrown out of the 500 a few hours later when Germany protested that the Czech violated a rule requiring paddlers to be at least 5 meters wide of all opponents.

Doktor immediately filed a protest, but it was dismissed by the same competition committee that had just ruled in favor of Dittmer. So Doktor took his gripe to a five-person jury from the ICF.

Meeting early Thursday because one of the witnesses wasn't available Wednesday afternoon, the panel took less than an hour to reinstate Doktor.

The Germans had argued that Doktor drifted to the far left of his lane and rode Dittmer's wake. ``Wake riding'' enables paddlers to be sucked forward by the water, allowing the rider to exerting less energy.

For paddlers the caliber of Doktor and Dittmer, saving strength is more of a priority than winning in the first round because the top three finishers go to the finals. The order of finish only determines lane assignments.

In the heat, Dittmer was in lane 4 and Doktor on his right in lane 5. If each lined up in the middle of his lane, they would be nine meters apart.

However, they were closer than that at the start because Dittmer, a right-handed paddler, preferred to be on the right side of the lane and Doktor, a lefty, opted to be on the left side.

Two judges watching the race from the water did not report a possible violation. Doktor's lane happened to be the only one that fell under the jurisdiction of both judges.

Rules required Doktor to monitor his distance to Dittmer instead of vice versa because the Czech was trailing.