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Baseball-softball vow to fight on after Olympic rejection

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge (L) attends the board session in Buenos Aires September 8, 2013. REUTER
President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge (L) attends the board session in Buenos Aires September 8, 2013. REUTER

By Julian Linden

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Baseball and softball have vowed to make another pitch to be readmitted to the Olympics after striking out on Sunday.

Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the International Baseball Federation, told Reuters that baseball and softball were not giving up hope of getting back in the Olympics.

The two sports joined forces as the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) to bid against wrestling and squash for the one available berth on the Olympic programme for the 2020 and 2024 Games.

But they missed out after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members voted overwhelming to reinstate wrestling. Baseball-softball finished second in the three-way ballot.

"Congratulations to wrestling and FILA. It's an honour to have presented before the IOC, alongside great competitors like squash and wrestling," Fraccari said.

"The WBSC will continue working hard and will continue listening and learning from the IOC, so that baseball and softball can come under the Olympic umbrella to serve and strengthen the Olympic Movement, as our sport expands and globalises further."

The odds were stacked against baseball and softball winning the vote. Wrestling was only kicked off the Olympic programme seven months ago, but immediately introduced a raft of reforms to win back its place.

Baseball and softball were on the Olympic programme from 1992 to 2008 but were voted out in a secret ballot in 2005, becoming the first sports to be removed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

FAILED ATTEMPTS

Although they were still allowed to participate at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the sports have failed in their attempts to get back in since.

"While we are obviously disappointed with the decision of the International Olympic Committee to not move forward with baseball and softball for inclusion on the Olympic program in 2020, we continue to believe the combined efforts of baseball and softball provide a great platform for international competition," USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler said in a statement.

"USA Baseball will continue to promote baseball and softball both internationally and domestically through our various initiatives, and we look forward to the opportunity to return to the Olympic program in the future."

The IOC have never specified exactly why the sports were dropped, the most commonly cited reasons are baseball's refusal to comply with all the World Anti-Doping Agency rules and the absence of Major League Baseball players from the Olympics.

However, with MLB recently cracking down on doping, suspending more than a dozen players linked to the Biogenesis scandal, and pledging their support to the Olympic movement, baseball-softball remain optimistic of a recall.

At their presentation to the IOC on Sunday, WBSC co-president Don Porter gave an emotional speech, choking up while tears welled in his eyes.

"I hope today that you will find a place for those little girls in the Olympics and help restore their dreams," Porter told the members.

Tony Castro, the son of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, also addressed the IOC in his role with the WBSC, as a demonstration of the sport's global appeal and popularity in some smaller countries.

"In my country Cuba, it is the top sport and the cement of a social tradition" he said.

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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