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Australian Swimmers Get 'Yellow Card', Face Rio Ban

posted 23 Aug 2013, 02:49 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 23 Aug 2013, 02:50 ]

Six top Australian swimmers are warned against their future conduct and told they risk being excluded from the 2016 Olympics, after an Australian Olympic Committee probe into their conduct.

SYDNEYAUSTRALIA  (REUTERS) - Six top Australian swimmers were warned against their future conduct and told they risk being excluded from the 2016 Olympics after an Australian Olympic Committee probe into their conduct in the run-up to last year's London Games.

World 100 metres freestyle champion James Magnussen and his 4x100 relay team mates were fined and given deferred suspensions by Swimming Australia in April for using a banned sedative and indulging in pranks in a bonding session before the Games.

The AOC report decided that those punishments were sufficient but warned that any "further conduct which brings them or their sport into disrepute" would be "likely to render them ineligible for selection to the 2016 Olympic team".

"This will be a very serious warning, as I said this is the yellow card and so I hope they learn from it," AOC President John Coates told a news conference on Friday (August 23).

Furthermore, AOC President John Coates said, any more incidents would make the swimmers "jointly and severally liable" for the up to A$150,000 ($135,300) costs of the investigation.

"There's just no excuse for this sort of behaviour, these are well-supported swimmers, financially, some have been at a number of Olympic Games, so that's a great disappointment to me," said Coates.

Magnussen was hot favourite to win the 100m in London, but came away with the silver, while the hotly-tipped relay team finished out of the medals as Australiaslipped to their worst performance in the Olympic pool for 20 years.

Matt Targett, Eamon SullivanJames RobertsCameron McEvoy and Tommaso D'Orsogna and Magnussen admitted in February they had used the sedative Stilnox and been involved in "childish" pranks at their training camp in Manchesterbefore the Games.

Stilnox, a brand of the medication zolpidem, is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency but was prohibited by the AOC just before the London Games after former Olympic champion Grant Hackett said he had become addicted to it.

The report said the conduct of the swimmers "which involved behaviour towards some female swimmers in the team that was 'boorish', selfish, obnoxious and disrespectful" did not amount to "bullying or harassment".

The swimmers were also given the benefit of the doubt in that they believed the ban on Stilnox would not come into effect until the team entered the athletes' village inLondon.

The probe had failed to uncover any evidence that one relay swimmer had given another a Stilnox pill on the flight back from London to Sydney but if evidence does emerge it would be regarded "very seriously".

Coates said the Swimming Australia fines amounted to between 25 and 100 percent of a quarter of the swimmers' annual athlete support grant.

The AOC report also criticised Swimming Australia for not informing the Olympic team management of the incident and instructing head swimming coach Leigh Nugent, who has since resigned, not to do so.

"I was disappointed that we didn't find out about it, that they decided to keep it for themselves, and, that's just not very smart," said Coates.

Coates announced that Australia would have its first woman Chef de Mission in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with Kitty Chiller replacing London head Nick Green.

Former Olympic champion rower Green, who has children, had decided he would not be able to dedicate sufficient time to the job, Coates said, leaving the way clear for the appointment of Chiller.

"I think we've learned a lot of lessons in London. I think in a way, an event like that is never a good event to happen, but you can turn it into a positive, if I can say that, and we need to learn lessons. We need to make sure that the sports understand, that the athletes and coaches, the managers understand that it is the Australian Olympic team, that we are responsible for that. It's beholden upon us to make sure that those reporting and communication channels are clear and are understood. There's some exciting announcements coming up that John's alluded too in terms of the structure of our team and we're ensuring that we are 110 percent, athlete-high-performance-focussed, and that's what we are all about at the end of the day," said Chiller.

Chiller was an Olympian in modern pentathlon Sydney in 2000 and a deputy Chef de Mission in London, where Australia finished a disappointing 10th in the medals table.