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Senior official forced to issue apology over 'ski fixing' email

One of the most senior officials in British snowsport has been forced to make an unreserved apology for falsely accusing competitors of rigging the world rankings in Alpine skiing.

Paddy Mortimer, British Ski & Snowboard's performance director, had asserted that the ranking system is "blatantly fixed" by racers when seeking to defend the controversial selection policy - implemented by his organisation in consultation with the British Olympic Association - which resulted in Britain turning down five places at the Winter Olympics.

Challenged by the parent of a leading English skier to explain inconsistencies between the qualification processes being used for different snowsport disciplines, Mortimer made the astonishing claim in an email written two weeks ago which is now circulating widely through the snowsport community.

In the message he stated that: "Alpine succumbs to the well-known fact that FIS [International Ski Federation] points are blatantly fixed by ski racers entering races and pulling up."

That message effectively questioned the integrity of ski racers at a time when many sports are being blighted by accusations of match fixing, something that even afflicted the London Olympics, leading to ejections and bans for several leading badminton players.

The implication that British skiers might be involved in or victims of such practices had naturally generated widespread anger and alarm among skiers themselves, their friends and family and the snowsport community as a whole.

Yet Mortimer has now admitted that they were completely unfounded and misrepresented the sport. "Some of the comments that I made recently in a private response to a concerned parent were not based on fact and are not the view of British Ski & Snowboard. They are not a reflection of the sport of Alpine skiing or snowsports in general. I am very sorry for making these comments," he has now admitted.

He made that admission only after his initial claims were brought to the attention of Herald Sport as a direct consequence of our revelation this week that Gordon Ritchie, a director of Scottish Snowsport had, evidently rightly, questioned the rationale behind the non-selection of Alpine skiers for the Winter Olympics. Ritchie had described a selection system which saw the British Olympic Association turn down five places it had been allocated for its leading skiers as "brutal".

Meanwhile, British citizen Vanessa Mae, who is globally renowned as a violinist but not as a skier, is competing in Sochi because having a Thai father allowed her to qualify for their team under far less stringent conditions.

Mortimer's failure to in any way substantiate his original claim is sure to increase the frustration being experienced by athletes who have devoted their lives to their sport yet have been denied what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of what appears to be an indefensible policy based on flawed thinking.

Mortimer's employers, meanwhile, distanced themselves fully from his remarks and the aspersions cast over the effectiveness of the world ranking system.

"British Ski & Snowboard strongly disagrees with any suggestion that there are issues with the Alpine FIS points scoring system. We are in fact very strong supporters of the system.

"We welcome the unreserved apology from our Performance Director Paddy Mortimer," said the governing body's spokesperson.

There has, however, been no indication so far as to what form of disciplinary action Mortimer is facing over his misrepresentation of the behaviour of participants in his sport.

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