BRITISH Olympic Association chief executive Andy Hunt has expressed his sympathy for taekwondo athletes Aaron Cook and Lutalo Muhammad caught up in a drawn-out selection row.

Dorchester’s world number one Cook has been overlooked three times in favour of Muhammad to compete in the under-80kg division at this summer’s Olympics.

The BOA and World Taekwondo Federation are both currently reviewing the selection process but Cook has already instructed law-yers to explore his legal options.

Hunt said he could not blame the 21-year-old for doing so but hoped the controversy would not end up in the courts.

He said: “I feel sorry for both of these taekwondo athletes who are both subject to a question mark now.

“They are both world-class athletes and need to be respected as that.

“The level of interest in the matter is unusual but getting a spot in the home team at a home games is a special thing to happen.

“I am not surprised there is undue focus and attention around the selection process that takes place. Lots of athletes – when they find themselves in this position – turn to external legal advice and that is probably a sensible thing to do because everyone needs to understand their position.

“Clearly it is not ideal if there is a legal debate and battle going on.

“That isn’t the case right now. Let’s wait until we have the outcome of the process over the next few days.”

The BOA’s Olympic Qualification Standards panel held a teleconference with members of the BOA board yesterday morning and are now consulting with the WTF before the OQS panel reconvenes to consider their verdict.

Meanwhile, Sports minister Hugh Robertson has described the Olympic taekwondo row as “embarrassing”.

He insisted he could take action if the bust-up concerning the non-selection of Cook was not resolved soon.

He said: “My line in this is a very simple one. I want us to win as many gold medals as possible at London 2012. “My concern is to ensure that we select the very best possible team which gives us the best chance of winning medals and particularly gold medals.

“I do not have a formal role in selecting which athletes form part of GB.

“Is it embarrassing for us? The answer to that is yes because you would rather not see our sports getting criticised by their international federations.

“That said it is probably inevitable before a home Olympics. Almost all the Olympic sports are expecting more appeals over selection than they have had at any previous Olympics and that is because so many athletes want to compete at a home Olympic Games.

“Yes, it is a bit embarrassing but it is not a surprise. I sort of thought this would happen if I’m honest.” Robertson, meanwhile, has received a copy of a letter Cook sent to BOA chairman Lord Moynihan, and the minister insisted it was time a line was drawn under the affair.

He admitted he was unable to influence the matter directly but he can clearly bring pressure to bear.

Robertson said: “Sports ministers don’t select teams and on the few occasions politicians have tried to influence the selection of teams normally a disaster follows.

“It is not for me to tell either British Taekwondo or the British Olympic Association who they select or which individual athletes they select for GB.

“If I were to step into this process it would set a very dangerous precedent because at that point everybody else who has a similar gripe, and we are expecting a record number of these, will come automatically to me.

“It does break the politicians shouldn’t interfere in selection rule and I am setting myself up for an awful lot of trouble but if this one ran on for a long time clearly I would talk to the British Olympic Association about it, of course I would.”