NZ Swimming stands by Bell decision

BY GREG FORD IN DELHI
Last updated 05:00 16/10/2010

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Kiwi swimmer Daniel Bell will be called to a meeting next week to discuss his future in the sport after he was sent home in disgrace from the Commonwealth Games.

Swimming New Zealand last night stood by its decision to banish Bell from New Delhi after the silver medal winner in the 100 metres backstroke broke his team's zero alcohol policy.

Interestingly, it appears two of Bell's team-mates reported his infraction to head swim coach Mark Regan on Monday and he was sent home on the first available flight.

The Auckland-based Bell, who hails from Hawke's Bay, would not return calls last night. New Zealand team chef de mission Dave Currie left New Delhi before the story broke and was due to arrive in New Zealand at noon today.

A spokesperson tried to distance the New Zealand Olympic Committee from the decision last night and said "it had nothing to do with us".

Swimming New Zealand chief executive Mike Byrne confirmed the NZOC was consulted "and they endorsed our decision".

"But we had jurisdiction to send him home and that's what we decided to do," he said. "As chief executive I was consulted and also endorsed the recommendation made by the senior management team."

The penalty at first glance would seem extremely harsh, even accounting for Bell's track record. He has been involved in two previous alcohol-related incidents.

Team-mates Dean Kent, Corney Swanepoel and Cameron Gibson were expelled from the New Zealand team and the Olympic village after taking a photo of a drunk Bell sitting on the toilet at a social function at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

And Bell was admitted to hospital in Rome last year, suffering from excessive alcohol intake after the completion of the world championships.

Bell was believed to be unwinding with some friends in the team village when he was caught.

"It would not have mattered whether he had one beer or 100 beers," Byrne said. "He knew about the rule but still went ahead and broke it."

When asked if Bell knew that the ramifications would be so serious, Byrne said: "I don't know. I can understand where people are coming from.

"There's a diverse range of opinion out there on the blogs and so on as to whether the punishment fitted the crime.

"It was a big call. But Mark Regan is very strict about these matters and the rules need to be enforced."

Byrne said the latest incident was not made public "because it was a private matter between us and Daniel".

"But we fronted up and were open and honest when we were asked to confirm if it was true," he said.

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