Australian Olympic boss John Coates has defended the selection of disgraced swimmer Nick D’Arcy in the team for the London Olympics, and Swimming Australia has denied reports of a secret deal allowing D’Arcy back into the team.
Mr Coates said it was a pity the controversy had resurfaced in the lead-up to July’s 2012 Olympic Games and he understood how D’Arcy had polarised public opinion.
But he said: “We are satisfied that he has learnt his lesson and he understands the standards required to be a member of our team.”
D’Arcy, 24, regarded as a strong medal chance in London, missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 Rome world championships after being charged and eventually convicted of an assault in which he king-hit fellow swimmer Simon Cowley in a Sydney bar in 2008.
Last year a judge in a civil case ordered D’Arcy to pay Cowley $370,000 in damages and costs but D’Arcy declared himself bankrupt.
This led to speculation Swimming Australia (SA) might drop him from the London team on the grounds that he had failed to meet ethical standards.
But SA nominated him after he met the qualifying standard, and Mr Coates said the AOC selection committee had received legal advice that D’Arcy’s bankruptcy did not constitute bringing him into disrepute under the terms of the team agreement.
Cowley, 31, whose face had to be surgically rebuilt after the assault, alleged in a report in Fairfax newspapers on Saturday that SA had done a “secret deal” allowing D’Arcy back into the team.
Swimming Australia denied the report.
SA president David Urquhart told reporters in Sydney: “There was no deal done with anyone about anything as far as I was concerned.
“Any deals that were to be done have to come to the board of Swimming Australia, and that never happened.”
Cowley said the deal was conditional on D’Arcy dropping threatened legal action against SA.
According to Cowley, SA chief executive Neil King had told him of the deal in 2009, saying: “I’m telling you this but if you ever repeat it – ever try to tell anyone – I’ll flat out deny it.”
But Mr Urquhart told reporters: “Kevin can’t remember saying any of the things that were said (in the report).”
Mr Urquhart said he did not believe D’Arcy’s inclusion in the team raised any morale issues, and D’Arcy’s place was not in doubt.
Asked if he wished D’Arcy would just bow out of swimming, Mr Coates replied: “Negativity is never good but I don’t wish anyone to bow out of sport and I wish him all the best.
“I was the person who decided what he did meant he shouldn’t be in the last team. We went through two court cases.
“But we wish him well now.
“We are satisfied that he has learnt his lesson and he understands the standards required to be a member of our team.”
Mr Urquhart said he had no idea why Cowley would make the claim.
Asked by a reporter: “What price medals?”, Mr Urquhart replied: “I think that’s a little unfair. He has served his time and we believe he is eligible for these Olympics.”