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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student


Little 500 riders take a stand

Group of 15 teams send open letter to voice grievance

A group of Little 500 riders submitted an open letter Monday declaring their discontent about freshman Joshua Weir's participation in Saturday's race.\nRiders Council Chair and senior Michael Nierengarten said 15 teams signed the letter. The teams said they fully agree with IU Student Foundation and want the established rules to be followed.\nThe letter addressed to IUSF said: "We, the eligible riders of the 2002 Little 500 hereby state our support of the IUSF's decision of a rider on the Major Taylor team being ineligible. We are disappointed that the University has allowed him to ride, due to the fact that there is overwhelming evidence that proves he is ineligible."\nThe letter continues: "All that we are asking is that the rules be applied to everyone in a fair manner and that everyone is treated equally. We request that the University reconsider its decision in light of the overwhelming evidence and take the necessary steps to correct it."\nWeir's amateur status was first called into question by IUSF in early March. Weir, who rides for Team Major Taylor, once attained Category I status, according to USA Cycling. Little 500 rules bar anyone who has attained Category I or II status from participation.\nBefore certified proof of Weir's status surfaced, IUSF disqualified Weir, but agreed to allow the team to participate in qualifications giving him time to prove that he was not a Category I rider.\nIUSF later found sufficient information deeming Weir ineligible and disqualified the entire team. But the dispute escalated, and the two sides agreed to enter arbitration April 3. The arbitrators reinstated the team into the race, citing a lack of evidence. But a letter surfaced the next day addressed to IUSF from USA Cycling stating Weir held a Category I status on the track in December of 2000, but lowered his status to a category III on the track in July 2001. The arbitrators met again and decided their initial decision was binding.\nOn Saturday, a group of riders voiced their dissatisfaction with that decision. They drafted an open letter to IUSF supporting IUSF's original decision and criticizing the way the administration handled the Team Major Taylor controversy.\n"At this point what we have said is out there, but now the riders are looking forward to the race and looking forward to having fun," Nierengarten said. "We are all looking forward to the race and having fun because that's the purpose of the race. We want to celebrate the race and the friendships that we have made."\nThe relationship between IUSF and Team Major Taylor has been tense for weeks. The IUSF requires each rider to sign documentation stating they are lower than Category I or II status riders. \nMajor Taylor's coach, Courtney Bishop, said Monday he did not hear anything about an open letter. He stressed that his team is only concerned with two things.\n"The only thing we are thinking about is school and the race," Bishop said. "It's their right to feel however they want about it. We are just concerned on school and the race."\nThe letter addressed to IUSF urges the administration to take action to correct what the riders believe to be an unfair situation.\nIU Spokesman Bill Stephan said the administration will continue to focus on the race and celebrate the riders and their accomplishments, as they have in the past. Stephan stressed the positive aspects of the race, including money that will be raised in relief for families and friends of Sept. 11 victims. \n"While we appreciate the concerns raised by the Little 500 riders there are no plans to overturn the ruling decision made by the independent arbitration committee regarding this eligibility issue," Stephan said.\nDespite many of the Little 500 riders signing to support the belief that the 2002 race has been compromised, some riders do not believe that supporting the letter is a worthwhile effort.\nJunior Nick Pejeau, a second-year Cutters rider, said it is obvious the rules were broken, but signing the letter would not prove anything. Pejeau said he does not want to put his energies into the process.\n"This has just been going on for months, and it's ridiculous," Pejeau said. "The fact of the matter is that it's an intramural sport and Josh Weir is a semi-professional athlete, and that subtracts from first-year riders. This isn't like a varsity sport, I mean obviously some teams take it very seriously, but it's still within the context of the race"

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