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A Greco-Roman wrestler’s road to the upcoming summer Olympics in Sydney took on epic dimensions as it wound its way through the federal court system in Chicago this week. Although a U.S. District judge finally ruled that Matt Lindland, a coach at the University of Nebraska, be named to the U.S. team and allowed to compete in the games, the U.S. Olympic Committee says it will appeal that order, thereby leaving the aspiring Olympian’s status in some doubt. “It seems that in the last five days we’ve had five different results at the end of the day,” said Steven J. Thompson, the attorney representing Lindland. “It’s still somewhat muddied up, but I expect that when all is said and done, Matt Lindland will be the guy going to the Olympics.” Briefs on the USOC’s appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago are due Aug. 31, although it was not known how soon the court would rule. Lindland’s case slowly gained notoriety in recent days as it evolved from a couple of arbitration actions to a lawsuit that, in turn, bounced around the past week from one U.S. District Court judge to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually to District Court Judge James B. Zagel. It was the latter jurist who ordered on Aug. 29 that Lindland’s name be placed by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and that the wrestler be allowed to compete in his weight class on behalf of his country. Lindland v. USA Wrestling, et al., No.00C5151. Lindland and U.S. Army wrestler Keith Sieracki had competed in a championship match in June to determine which of the two would go to the Olympics. Lindland lost and challenged the outcome with USA Wrestling, the governing body of amateur wrestling. That body upheld Sieracki’s victory, and Lindland took the case to an arbitrator who ordered a rematch be held following a hearing in Chicago in August. Lindland won the rematch and, apparently, a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. But, Sieracki then filed a grievance of his own with an arbitrator on the theory that he was not a party to the first arbitration process initiated by Lindland. The second arbitrator ruled in Sieracki’s favor, and USA Wrestling nominated him for a spot on the Olympic team. Lindland then filed a lawsuit in a Chicago federal courtroom to enforce the decision of the first arbitrator. U.S. District Judge Suzanne B. Conlon dismissed the action, but an appeal to the 7th Circuit resulted in a ruling Aug. 25 that the arbitrator’s decision had not been ambiguous and that the rematch he had ordered was to determine which wrestler would be nominated for the Olympics. Judge Frank Easterbrook’s opinion also addressed the issue of Sieracki not being a party to the first arbitration ruling, stating that the Arbitration Act does not require arbitration between athletes, and the USOC Constitution does not require an individual athlete be named as the adverse party in arbitration cases. Lindland v. USA Wrestling, et al., No. 00-3177. “Lindland named the right party in his demand to arbitrate,” Easterbrook wrote. “He sought relief from USA Wrestling, which is the USOC member and the governing body of his sport, not from Sieracki. USA Wrestling is the only entity in a position to give him what he wants — nomination to the Olympic team.” Despite the appellate court ruling and USA Wrestling’s nomination of Lindland, the USOC still chose Sieracki as a member of the Olympic team, resulting in Lindland returning to court on Monday to state his case before Zagel. “What we said was he was entitled to be the nominee of USA Wrestling, and the USOC is obligated to defend Matt Lindland’s rights to be the nominee and could not willy-nilly choose somebody else,” Thompson said. In his order from Tuesday, Zagel wrote that, if the IOC does not accept Lindland as a member of the U.S. team, Sieracki could be accepted in his place. Thompson, of the Chicago office of Dallas-based Jenkens & Gilchrist, was assisted by Marion B. Adler and Kevin Buckley Duff. Michael L. Morkin of Baker & McKenzie’s Chicago office represented the USA Wrestling Assoc. Irving B. Levinson of D.C.-based Piper, Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe’s Chicago office represented the U.S. Olympic Committee.

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