The International Olympic Committee insists that its decision to keep women's ski jumping out of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver is based on technical merit, not discrimination.
"The IOC would like to stress again the decision not to include women's ski jumping has been taken purely on technical merit," Emmanuelle Moreau, the IOC's media relations manager, said in an e-mail to the Canadian Press on Wednesday. "Any reference to the fact that this is a matter about gender equality is totally inappropriate and misleading."
On Tuesday, a group of 10 current and former women's ski jumpers from Europe, the U.S. and Canada were granted an April 20 court date to argue that preventing them from competing at the 2010 Games violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The group is suing the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee. VANOC has said the charter doesn't apply to the IOC, and that it's the IOC that makes the decision about which sports are allowed the Games.
The lawsuit asks for women's ski jumping to be added to the 2010 Vancouver program, or, barring that, for men's ski jumping to be removed.
The IOC voted in 2006 to exclude women's ski jumping from the 2010 Games, saying the sport didn't meet the basic criteria for an Olympic event.
Moreau said the IOC understands "the heartfelt emotion" the Canadian women ski jumpers feel over competing in a home Games.
"With too few athletes competing in this event, and no world championships until one year before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, women's ski jumping does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events," she said.
The lawyer representing the ski jumpers says since VANOC is carrying out the policy of the federal and provincial government, it must follow the rules of the charter, which prevents gender discrimination.
Neither the IOC nor the federal government is named in the lawsuit. The athletes are suing VANOC rather than the IOC because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies only to governmental organizations in Canada.
Two years ago, the IOC voted not to allow women's ski jumping into the 2010 Games, saying the sport has not developed enough and that it didn't meet basic criteria for inclusion.
To be considered for inclusion in an Olympic Games, it's believed a sport must have held at least two world championships.
The first women's ski jumping world championships will be held next year in Liberec, Czech Republic.