IBAF: No World Baseball Classic without Cuba

MIAMI (ESPNdeportes.com) -- International Baseball Association (IBAF) president Aldo Notari said on Saturday his organization will not sanction the World Baseball Classic if Cuba is not allowed to participate.

"Without Cuba, IBAF will withdraw its approval of the event," Italian Notari stated. "And if the IBAF does that, national federations will not be able to register their teams for the World Baseball Classic."

Notari made this statements in Chicago, where he is taking part in the NCAA's Trainers' Convention. He talked to "Dogout", a radio show broadcast by Radio 1120 AM in Puerto Rico.

Producers of the show allowed ESPNdeportes.com access to the interview, which will air on Monday.

"There is an article in the Olympic Charter saying it clearly: any kind of discrimination on political, racial or religious grounds is unacceptable," said Notari before flying to Lausanne, Switzerland.

"IBAF cannot endorse a tournament in which Olympic rules are not being respected, without leaving the Olympic movement altogether," he added.

The World Baseball Classic is being jointly organized by IBAF, Major League Baseball and the Players Union. All 16 countried originally invited to participate are members of the IBAF.

The United States Treasury Department has denied Cuba a permit to take part in the event, saying that as teams will receive money from their participation in the tournament, that would violate of the terms of the economic embargo against the Caribbean country.

In order to offer options, Cuba has proposed to donate any earnings associated with their participation in the tournament to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Meanwhile, tournament organizers are still trying to revert the decision and have reapplied for a permit.

Cuba was originally grouped together with the Netherlands, Panama and co-hosts Puerto Rico in Group C, scheduled to be played in San Juan.

The event, which will also feature games in the United States and in Japan, will take place March 3-20.

Notari also stated that he has already sent MLB a document warning them on the IBAF's position.

"This is a sad situation, but MLS is not to blame. It's the United States government that has acted against a member country of the International Olympic Committee,", said Notari.

"We hope Cuba can finally play,", said Richard Levin, speaker for the the MLB's Commissioner's Office. Levin confirmed Notari has already sent MLB a warning letter.

Notari also said that the IBAF's main problem right now is not the World Baseball Classic, but keeping the Olympic status of the sport beyond 2008.

"We're trying to keep Baseball within the Olympics after the 2008 games, and this decision by the Treasury Department of the United States does not help us at all", he said.