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IWF snipes back at USA weightlifting

Aug. 09, 2008, 11 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The International Weightlifting Federation has accused U.S. weightlifting officials of misleading the public in the case of Casey Burgener, an American super heavyweight who was left off the Olympic team.

In an open letter Saturday to the U.S. Olympic Committee, IWF President Tamas Ajan said USA Weightlifting had made "unfounded statements" about why Burgener couldn't compete in Beijing.

The IWF and USA Weightlifting have been disputing the number of U.S. weightlifters who qualified for the men's competition. The U.S. federation claims it was originally given three slots and that one was taken away unjustly, forcing it to leave Burgener off the team.

The IWF says the U.S. never qualified for more than two slots, a point Ajan stressed in his letter while rejecting what he called "accusations and assaults on behalf of the USA Weightlifting, based on unfounded statements."

Ajan said that U.S. weightlifting officials "repeatedly misled the U.S. public, the media, and Mr. Burgener, his family and associates - and probably the USOC, too," about the case.

The spokesman for the U.S. weightlifting team, Cecil Bleiker, didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

It came a day after Dennis Snethen, the interim executive director of USA Weightlifting, lashed out at the IWF at a news conference in Beijing and said Burgener deserved to compete in the Olympics.

"We earned those slots on the field of play and they're taken away from us," Snethen told reporters Friday.

The U.S. appeared to have qualified for three slots after a good performance at the 2007 World Championships. However, those slots were lost when the U.S. dropped in the team rankings after the IWF reshuffled the grid to account for positive doping tests.

Snethen criticized the recalculation, saying it was unfair that the U.S. team fell in the rankings, even though it didn't have any positive tests. "It just seems the U.S. could not get a break. I don't know what it is," he said.

The U.S. team brought Burgener to Beijing anyway, hoping that he would be allowed to compete at the last minute. But those hopes died when his name was not on the final start list issued for the super heavyweight competition.

Ajan blamed the U.S. for unfairly keeping Burgener "in the false belief" that he could take part in the Olympics.

"We can understand his frustration when he finally learned what had been repeatedly officially confirmed all the way," Ajan said.