International concern over Argentina's Sports Secretary's intimidation of Olympic athletes

Inés Arrondo, the head of Argentine sports, questioned by Olympic athletes and the Argentine Olympic Committee (COA).

(ATR) - Inés Arrondo, Argentina's Secretary of Sports, received the "rejection and repudiation" of the Argentine Olympic Committee (COA) for "intimidating" Olympic medalists, in the middle of a controversy over a questioned handling of funds in view of the country's participation in the South American athletics championship.

"The Argentine Olympic Committee regrets and repudiates the statements and actions of the Secretary of Sports of the Nation, Inés Arrondo, which offend our institution and also seek to disqualify, silence and intimidate several glorious and impeccable references of our recent sporting history," the statement said.

The COA expressed its "solidarity" with former cyclists Juan Curuchet and Walter Pérez, both Olympic champions, and with gymnast Federico Molinari, Pan American champion and Olympic finalist.

The statement comes after Arrondo, the country's top sports official, insisted on sending to the tournament that starts this week in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a delegation that almost triples the usual number. Winner of a silver medal and a bronze medal in field field hockey at the Olympic Games, Arrondo proposed to hire a charter flight, something totally unusual for Argentine Olympic sport, and asked the national government to assume the 112,000 dollars cost.

Argentine delegations to the South American athletics events usually range between 12 and 20 members, but on this occasion Arrondo wanted to send 60. Argentina had planned to participate with that number of athletes in the South American because it was scheduled to host the tournament. A few weeks ago, the country's government decided, in the midst of pandemic restrictions, not to hold the event.

Argentine Olympic sport sources told Around the Rings of their surprise at Arrondo's refusal to use the facilities of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games as the venue for the South American athletics championships. The official imposed the decision that the competition would be held at the Cenard facilities, the high performance sports center, with facilities and equipment far inferior to those offered by the venue of those Games. With this decision of Argentina's top sports officer, the well known recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take advantage of the Olympic legacy was clearly ignored.

Arrondo promised that all athletes scheduled to compete in Buenos Aires would also compete in Guayaquil. The cost of the charter flight was to be assumed, according to the official, by the Enard, which is the high performance sports body, financed with taxpayers' money.

The presidency of Enard, a mixed entity formed by the state and the COA, is rotating, and this year is in the hands of Gerado Werthein, president of the COA and member of the executive committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In a letter, Enard let Arrondo know of its refusal to finance a charter for 60 athletes.

"Hiring a private plane to transport a delegation that also doubles in number the record of the last South American Championships would be an irresponsibility that would deform a line of conduct, both in terms of sporting criteria and the application of economic resources, which since the first months of 2018 come from the National Treasury," the letter stated.

The Enard proposed to send 19 athletes, as it considered that only 11 of them have a real chance of obtaining the minimum mark to compete in Tokyo 2020. The government insisted on 60.

The situation had an unusual derivation: Santiago Maratea, a well-known local influencer, promoted a collection in social networks to finance the flight, which he himself got for 99,000 dollars, cheaper than the government, and part of theathletes traveled to Ecuador in that machine. Others were already on their way on regular flights.

Curuchet, Pérez and Molinari criticized Arrondo for a decision that, they allege, is discriminatory with respect to other disciplines, which always compete with very tight delegations in competitions abroad. The fact that 60 Argentines would participate in a South American athletics event was only justifiable if the country was hosting the tournament, they added.

Official Press ReleasePérez, gold medalist in cycling in Beijing 2008, complained in an interview that Arrondo "benefits only one sport and not the others". Quoted by the news site Infobae, the former cyclist said he receivedan "intimidating and insulting" message from the Secretary of Sports.

Curuchet, gold medalist with Pérez in Beijing, believes that Arrondo wants to "destroy the Enard so that the public funds sent by the National Treasury go to his office and she can use that money to make politics".

Molinari also complained to Infobae about Arrondo's mistreatment. The gymnast revealed that the official informed him "her discontent" for the fact that he went out to defend the COA and Enard.

"I always try to tell her the things I think. It bothered me that she got into the Olympic Committee. I am part of the Olympic Committee and when there is a criticism like that it is a personal matter. It is an institution that works and we try to give the best for the sport. Enard not only finances 1,500 scholarships, but there are also a lot of activities that support athletes. This situation of the private flight made me very uncomfortable, we wanted to go out and tell the truth about ENARD, so that an institution which has changed our lives is not tarnished, and that has nothing to do with complicating those who were trying to travel", explained the gymnast.

With information from Infobae: