Aussie lifter booted from village after assault

CHRIS BARRETT, PHIL LUTTON AND STATHI PAXINOS
Last updated 03:56 01/08/2014
Francois Etoundi
Getty Images

IN HOT WATER: Francois Etoundi won bronze in the men's 77kg weightlifting class in Glasgow but is now facing an assault charge after an incident in the athletes village.

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Francois Etoundi, a member of the Australian Commonwealth Games team, has had his accreditation revoked after an alleged assault at the athletes village in Glasgow on Wednesday morning (local time).

The 29-year-old, who won a bronze medal in the 77kg class weightlifting, has been banished from the Commonwealth Games and will face Glasgow Sheriff Court later on Thursday (local time).

Fairfax Media revealed on Wednesday evening that Scottish police would allege that Etoundi assaulted a Welsh athlete, believed to be weightlifter Gareth Evans.

A Team Wales spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday night that a member of their Commonwealth Games team was assisting police.

"We're aware of an incident that occurred overnight involving a member of Team Wales and we're currently working with Police Scotland to assist them with their enquiries," the spokesperson said. 

"Whilst the facts around the matter are being established it would be wrong for us to comment any further."

Australian chef de mission Steve Moneghetti declined to comment in detail on the alleged incident on Thursday because the court matter was still underway.

But he revealed that the Commonwealth Games Federation had directed him to revoke Cameroon-born Etoundi's accreditation, citing a breach of the athletes village rules.

Moneghetti said no arrangements for Etoundi's flight home had been made.

"We've had a request from the CGF that the accreditation of that athlete be revoked," he said.

"That's a matter before the courts so that's an allegation. The reason the accreditation has been revoked because there are some rules you abide by as a resident of the village so the CGF in their determination have seen that's a breach of the village life and they've revoked his accreditation. Rest assured that our athlete has legal representation and we make sure that the athlete's welfare is our No.1 priority."

Moneghetti said there had not been any talk about whether Etoundi would have to forfeit his medal. He said he was disappointed about the negative publicity as the vast majority of athletes have represented their nation in exemplary fashion.

"I'm not embarrassed because as an Australian team we perform proudly with great integrity and we represent the Australian Commonwealth Games extremely well so these isolated incidents, while disappointing, the overall impression of the Australian sporting team that's here is one of great toughness and great support and a really honest representation for their country and we're seeing that in the results."

Commonwealth Games Association chief executive Mike Hooper confirmed that Etoundi was no longer welcome in the athletes' village.

"We do not want the gentleman returning to the village and as a consequence of that we have worked with the Australian team and we fully support the question posed to us to withdraw his accreditation," he said.

"He will not be back in the village as I understand his bags have been packed."

Police Scotland said in a statement on Wednesday that a 29-year-old man had been detained after police responded to a report of a disturbance at the 35-hectare village, located nearby Celtic Stadium in the city's east end.

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He remained in police custody throughout Wednesday.

Scottish police said on Wednesday, "A 29 year-old  man has been arrested and is presently detained in custody in connection with an alleged assault following an altercation within the athletes' village in Glasgow on Wednesday the 30th of July."

Etoundi was one of three lifters that represented Cameroon in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 before staying after their competition visas had expired and seeking asylum.

It looked to be a substantial boost for Australian weightlifting but two of the three have now caused major issues for the sport.

Along with Etoundi was lifter Simplice Ribouem, who was controversially denied gold in Glasgow earlier this week, and Daniel Koum.

Koum was at the centre of an alleged blackmail storm prior to the London Olympics, in which he was accused of demanding $5000 in a lead-up event or he would refuse to lift, a move that would have cost Australia its only spot at the Olympics.

Koum always denied any wrongdoing - but never denied accepting the money - and fell out spectacularly with Australian weightlifting officials.

After a flurry of legal manouvres, he served a 12 month suspension from the sport that ended at the start of the year but hasn't been re-registered with the Australian team.

He lifted in Glasgow but for his former nation Cameroon, missing the medals and blaming Australian officials for his absence from the podium.

Ribouem was in the middle of a controversy of his own but confined only to the sport. He was leading the men's 94kg division but dropped to silver after Papua New Guinea's Steven Kari was green-lighted on what replays would later prove to be an illegal lift.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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