Team Canada skip Jim ArmstrongContrary to rumours circulating at Richmond last week, there has been no final decision on who will represent Canada at the 2011 World Championships in Prague, February 21st to March 3rd.
Wendy Morgan told me that the decision had not been finalised and would require CCA approval. So, presumably, would any team selection where the CCA is picking up the tab. Greg Stremlaw, CEO of the CCA, confirmed today: "A final decision of the team that will represent Canada at the 2011 WWhCC will likely be made by the end of this month."
National program director Gerry Peckham has in the past shown a reluctance to change a winning team, and under normal circumstances there would be no expectation of changes to the five who won gold at the Paralympics last March. Jim Armstrong's legal problems complicate things, however.
The CCA and the major funders for the national wheelchair program, Sports Canada and Own The Podium, have yet to decide whether Jim's actions as outlined in his plea of guilty to distributing pills with an intent to deceive, presented to a Seattle Federal judge, "reflect detrimentally upon the image of the National Team Program, CCA or Canada." Do the offenses to which Jim has admitted, constitute grounds for removal from the national program?
The CCA is in a quandary. They are obviously reluctant to give up on a person considered instrumental to Team Canada's success at the Worlds and Paralympics, especially as Jim has intimated that his actions will be seen differently when he is free to offer a mitigating explanation for the admissions in his plea, presumably after sentencing on January 28th.
The CCA can delay deciding whether Armstrong should still qualify for national program membership and benefits, but the practicalities of travel arrangements for the World Championships in Prague, Feb 21 - March 3, mean that a team must be chosen before then.
It is possible that if Jim removes himself from consideration for Prague, or if the CCA considers it too great a risk to select someone at the mercy of a US Federal judge for his freedom, a team selection decision could be made independently of a national program status decision.
Jim could take the long term view here, helping the CCA by saying that he won't go to Prague, but defending himself and his status in the national program when he feels free to do so.
Whatever the decision, Greg Stremlaw says, "I can assure you that the CCA will definitely be ready for the WWhCC and ongoing analysis and plans are well underway." It is confidence echoed by coach Joe Rea who told me recently that the team is prepared for any eventuality.