By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Several of Ireland’s leading track and field athletes, including Olympic gold medal hopefuls Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan, are embroiled in a row that could prevent them from competing at the Sydney games later this year.
In a running dispute between the Olympic Council of Ireland and the Athletics Association of Ireland over what clothing Irish athletes should wear, the OCI has asked 13 athletes to sign contracts before the Olympics.
The contracts oblige the athletes to waive their marketing rights, covering areas such as sponsorship and advertising. Essentially, the OCI is demanding that athletes who have already achieved qualifying standards for Sydney must protect the interests of the Council’s main sponsor, adidas.
Meanwhile, the AAI has an existing deal with another clothing manufacturer, Asics. Its spokesman, Christy Wall, said, "Our legal advice is that the contract has the potential to infringe the athletes’ rights."
O’Sullivan’s agent, Kim McDonald, said he had sent the contract to his legal advisor, the former Irish Olympian, Frank O’Mara.
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The row threatens to replicate a similar clash between the OCI and the AAI when O’Sullivan was forced to change her running strip in public. Minister for Sport Jim McDaid has written to both organizations requesting talks to resolve a potentially damaging issue.