Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not A Level Playing Field

Over the past week there has been a few intriguing decisions made about athletes’ opportunities to participate at the Beijing Olympics. One campaign has ended prematurely, while the other seems to have been revived.

Nick D’Arcy has had his Olympic dream all but squashed by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). In case you have been hiding under a rock and are not aware of his out of the pool dramas, the champion butterflier was involved in a late night scrap with fellow swimmer Simon Cowley and is in court defending himself against assault charges as a result.

D’Arcy’s conduct was ruled by AOC president John Coates to have “ brought swimming, the team and the AOC into disrepute”. Hence, he was dropped from the Beijing Olympic swimming team.

So much for being innocent until proven guilty. I’m afraid athletes rarely get the benefit of that virtue nowadays. Considering his case doesn’t look like it will be decided until June by the courts, you would have to say this is a knee-jerk reaction by the AOC.

If D’Arcy is found innocent of the assault charges by the judicial system, he may still miss the boat for Beijing. He would then face another trial by the Court of Arbitration for Sport where he would have the lodge an appeal for reinstatement to the Olympic Team.

Imagine that,…an athlete missing out on a life long dream for something he is found innocent of in a court of law? We may just see it in this case.

On the other hand, soccer star and Olyroo Danny Vukovic’s Olympic dream has been given a second life under some interesting circumstances.

Vukovic has been appealing a suspension he incurred during the A-League final. His original sentence of 15 months after coming into contact with a referee during the final, has since been reduced to a nine month ban.

The story does not end here, however. Vukovic appealed yet again and his sentence now has been divided into two parts; Part 1 will be served from now till June 28 and he will resume the punishment for Part 2 on August 29 until October 5.

It doesn’t take a genius, only a calendar to figure out that this temporary pardon will allow the Central Coast Mariners’ goalkeeper to add the Beijing Olympic Games to his CV.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be interested to see if John Coates steps in and flexes his muscle on this decision.

If he doesn’t what message does this send? Initiating contact with a referee during a match is not as serious of an offense as losing your cool when you are out and about on your own time. Sounds like that about sums it up to me.

Again I will reiterate that I am not condoning the athlete’s behavior in either case. But I will say that if I was in their shoes, I am fighting to the death to get myself on the plane to Beijing. This is the pinnacle for any athlete and it only happens every four years.

The premature judgment by the AOC of D’Arcy just doesn’t sit right with me when you compare it to the decision made to benefit Vukovic. Often I find myself wondering if there might just be more to the story in cases like these.

You can read my article in the Townsville Bulletin every Saturday.

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