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Brazilians plan appeal for attack on marathoner

Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 12:51PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 12:51PM
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Brazilian sports officials blamed inadequate course security for a defrocked priest's bizarre attack on the Olympic marathon leader, and said Monday they will appeal to world track authorities for a duplicate gold medal.

The criticism of Athens Olympic organizers, who have been praised for their overall security, came as former priest Cornelius Horan was given a one-year suspended sentence. Horan also was fined $3,600 and warned to stay out of trouble in Greece for the next three years.

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Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, said marathoner Vanderlei de Lima should have been better guarded as he ran ahead of the field with about three miles to go Sunday night on the closing day of the Olympics. Horan jumped from the crowd and grabbed de Lima, knocking him into roadside spectators. De Lima continued running, but soon lost his lead and finished third.

"It's a big mistake. The moment you have a leader, you need to have two motorcycles together protecting him," Nuzman said. "The athlete cannot pay for such a mistake."

Athens Olympic organizers could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roberto Gesta de Melo, head of the Brazilian track federation, said an appeal will be filed in about a week with the International Association of Athletics Federations seeking a gold medal for de Lima. An IAAF race jury rejected a similar appeal Sunday night, saying it sympathized with the Brazilian but could not change the result.

"It's something not usual, of course, but some decisions have been done like that before," de Melo said, referring to the request for a duplicate gold medal. "I think it would be a gesture of fair play."

Brazilian officials emphasized they have no intention of taking medals away from champion Stefano Baldini of Italy or runner-up Meb Keflezighi of the United States. They said they will appeal to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport if the IAAF does not agree to the second gold medal.

Horan has a history of disrupting sports events and was convicted by a three-member misdemeanor court of violating Greece's laws on extracurricular sports, which usually are used for soccer hooligans. He was expected to return home to London.

Horan, 57, was wearing a green beret, red kilt and knee-high green socks when he pushed de Lima. The former priest had a piece of paper attached to his back bearing the message: "The Grand Prix Priest Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says the Bible."

Horan, in a costume similar to Sunday's, ran onto the track at the British Grand Prix last year and stayed there for more than 20 seconds, forcing Formula One racers traveling at more than 200 mph to swerve around him. He was carrying a sign that said: "Read the Bible -- the Bible is always right."

British authorities said Horan also attempted a protest on Wimbledon's center court during a rain break, and tried to disrupt cricket and rugby matches.

De Lima said he might have won the gold medal if Horan hadn't grabbed him. Though the Brazilian harbors no resentment toward Horan, he said the suspended sentence may not be enough to deter the former priest from future antics.

"This means he will probably do this again and get killed, as in Formula One, or kill someone," de Lima said.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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