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USOC Appeals Order on Wrestler

August 30, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ U.S. Olympic officials have asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s order that they place Greco-Roman wrestler Matt Lindland on the U.S. team at the Sydney Games.

Still, the U.S. Olympic Committee went ahead and complied with the order by sending a letter asking International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch to recognize Lindland as an athlete representing the United States.

``We acknowledge that we have received the letter, and it will have to be reviewed,″ IOC spokesman Mike Contos said Wednesday.

Even if the judge’s order is upheld, there’s no guarantee Lindland will get on the U.S. team because the IOC has the authority to reject the request, USOC spokesman Mike Moran said.

Moran said the deadline for changes has passed, and ``The (IOC) executive board is the only entity now that can change a roster.″

Lindland, a University of Nebraska wrestling coach until April, has been fighting a drawn-out battle in the courts and elsewhere with military police Sgt. Keith Sieracki for the spot in the 167 1/2-pound weight class on the U.S. team.

Sieracki beat Lindland 2-1 on a referee’s decision at the Olympic trials in Dallas in June. But an arbitrator ordered a rematch after Lindland claimed he was illegally tripped. Lindland won the rematch 8-0.

Sieracki took that to arbitration in Colorado and won. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago last week upheld the first arbitration, and U.S. District Judge James Zagel said Monday that should have settled the matter. The USOC’s appeal now takes the case back to the court.

In his order, Zagel raised the possibility that the action could cause the IOC to disqualify both Sieracki and Lindland, leaving the United States without any wrestler in their weight class.

The judge said that if the IOC won’t accept the substitution of Lindland, ``the IOC should then accept the selection of Keith Sieracki and permit him to compete.″

But attorneys said the judge’s recommendation might carry little weight with the IOC, and Zagel acknowledged he has no jurisdiction over the international body, based in Switzerland.

``I don’t think he can order IOC to do anything, but I do think USOC can accomplish the substitution,″ Lindland attorney Steven Thompson said.

Sieracki, based at Fort Carson, Colo., asked a federal court in Denver on Tuesday to issue an order confirming the second arbitration. But that court transferred the case to Chicago for the sake of ``judicial efficiency.″

Sieracki was glum over the series of court reversals.

``I beat him fair and square at the Olympic trials,″ he said from Colorado Springs. ``There has been controversy since the first day I wrestled in the fifth grade, blown calls and stuff, and I never protested a match.

``You work your life away and then all of a sudden they try to take it away from you because of procedure and misapplication of bylaws,″ he said.

Lindland said he is happy that the USOC is ``finally doing what they’re told to do _ following the laws of this country.″

``I’ve never protested . . . a single match in my life (before now) _ never,″ he said. ``But when the rules are so blatantly misapplied in our sport, I had no option.″

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