Although originally from Canada, Harnois has represented, lived and trained in France since 2008 and in that period won two European titles and a World Championships bronze medal in addition to her Olympic podium finish in the under 57 kilogram category, according to insidethegames.biz.
But she was removed from the French squad in April following the appointment of Myriam Baverel as the national coach of the women’s team.
The six-month period since has consisted of allegations of abuse and mistreatment launched by Harnois against French Taekwondo while, in return, she has been hit with a two-year suspension and the removal of her licence as a result of making the allegations.
This process has ended with her moving back to Canada with the aim of representing Canada at Rio 2016.
Following a period she described as “amazing” after her Olympic success, and barely a month after she received an award from French President Francois Hollande, Harnois was abruptly cut from the national squad in April despite being ranked fourth in the world.
After several failed attempts to return to the team she was faced either with training outside the national set up with no prospects of selection or returning to Canada.
She decided to appeal both to the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) and French Sports Minister Valérie Fourneyron.
These attempts resulted in a two-year suspension issued by French Taekwondo but also resulted in an inquiry against the treatment of the athlete.
Harnois has complained that she had repeatedly been the victim of “insults, threats, moral harassment and violent verbal abuse” while representing France.
After a three-month process, the inquiry concluded that leadership “had not always been at what is expected in terms of support for athletes,” but also that Harnois had “received satisfactory support”.
No further action was taken against the Federation and neither her ban nor the revoking of her licence was rescinded.
Harnois then returned to Canada where she is now training with them in the hope of switching nationality in time for an attempt to compete at Rio 2016.
Yet, while she is able to compete at international open tournaments, and is planning to return to competitive action at the Canadian Open next February, she is currently unable to compete at Championship level.
Earlier this month a letter was sent from Su Hwan Chung, President of Taekwondo Canada to Roger Piarulli, head of French Taekwondo,
The letter requested that French Taekwondo “may immediately release Mrs Marlene Harnois to Taekwondo Canada so that she may represent Canada in her first competitive endeavours in taekwondo”.
Piarulli responded by publicly insisting no such permission should be given unless Harnois withdraw all of her allegations against French Taekwondo, which she is unwilling to do.
Last week, further clear the air talks were held in Paris, but were similarly unable to reach an amenable conclusion.
The case has some similarities with that involving Britain’s Aaron Cook in the build-up to London 2012.
Aaron Cook, the then world ranked number one and double European champion in the under 80kg category, was controversially left out of the British team in favour of eventual bronze medal winner Lutalo Muhammad.
Following an extended period of dispute has now changed nationality to represent the Isle of Man, although they are not eligible to compete in the Olympics.
Harnois‘ chances now rest even in lengthy proceedings through the French Administrative courts or, as Cook unsuccessfully did, by appealing to a higher authority such as the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) .
Even if she was able to switch nationality, it is unclear whether she would have to serve a three year period before being allowed to compete for her new country.
The Canadian Olympic Committee refused to comment on the matter, while the World Taekwondo Federation have not given one either so far.
However, Harnois herself told insidethegames that “if no release is agreed then my last shot at getting the agreements relies on the Canadian Olympic Committee and the World Taekwondo Federation.”
“Time is flying by very quickly and all those procedures and delays really doesn’t make it easy for me, on top of everything else they had me go through,” she said.
“Anyhow, I try to stay focused as much as I can on training, staying positive and keeping dreaming.
“I chose to dedicate my life to chase my Olympic dream not only because I am passionate about my sport but for the values that the Games represents and shares.”
French Taekwondo have told insidethegames that “they are considering the request of the Canadian federation.”
“This question has not been discussed at the last meeting in Paris to the National Olympic Committee,” a spokesman said.
“The meeting focused on the disciplinary sanction.”