Athlete's headbutt undermines 'friendly Games'

Last updated 09:02 01/08/2014
Sydney Morning Herald

Australian weightlifter Francois Etoundi ordered to pay compensation after headbutting and fracturing the nose of Welsh Weightlifter Gareth Evans at the Commonwealth Games.

Francois Etoundi
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DISGRACED: Francois Etoundi has been sent back to Australia after assaulting a rival in the athletes village.
Gareth Evans
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HURTING: Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans was left with a broken nose after Francois Etoundi headbutted him in the athletes village.

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Australian Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Francois Etoundi has been ordered to pay £400 (NZ$800) compensation to Welsh weightlifter Gareth Evans after admitting to headbutting him and fracturing his nose in an altercation at the athletes village in Glasgow.

Etoundi, 29, appeared in Glasgow Sherriffs Court overnight and was released after spending nearly 36 hours in police custody.

He would miss the closing ceremony, with his accreditation stripped and Australian officials sending him on a flight home as soon as possible.

The court heard overnight that Etoundi, also a weightlifter, had headbutted Evans after an argument over a woman, causing an uncomplicated fracture of the Welshman's nose.

Sherriff Andrew Cubie said the Australian had "undermined the concept of the 'friendly Games'" with his actions and should be ashamed of himself.

Etoundi pleaded guilty to assault over the altercation, which his defence lawyer David Hunter said followed an earlier verbal clash between the two in the village dining hall after Evans' girlfriend had hugged the Australian while congratulating him on his bronze medal win.

Hunter said Evans had not been impressed by the physical contact.

The Crown's procurator fiscal, Stuart Fauré, however, said there was no indication of a trigger for the assault, which he claimed had been totally unprovoked.

He said Etoundi had approached Evans, and another weightlifter, Sonny Webster of England, while they were in the dining hall at about 4.45am on Wednesday (NZT 3.35pm Wednesday) and asked Evans to join him outside for a fight.

After ignoring the Australian Mr Fauré said that about an hour later Evans and Webster left the dining room and came across Etoundi.

"Mr Etoundi approached Mr Evans and headbutted him to his face. The blow struck Mr Evans on the nose," Fauré said.

Etoundi refused to comment as he left the court on Thursday, escorted by Australian Commonwealth Games Association chief executive Perry Crosswhite but when he was detained by police, he had said: "Yeah, yeah, I understand. I'm cool, man."

The court heard he had been drinking in the lead-up to the confrontation.

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, Etoundi was booked into a Glasgow hotel by the ACGA and was to fly out of the country as soon a seat on a flight could be found.

Expelled from the Australian team in Glasgow, he faced further disciplinary action by the Australian Weightlifting Federation.

"It's very sad for Francois. We're disappointed in any athlete that doesn't abide by the rules and goes off the rails a bit," Crosswhite said.

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"I haven't spoken with him yet, but the legal people suggest he's feeling remorse and he's sorry he did it."

Crosswhite said he felt sympathy for Etoundi, whose place on national teams in the future would depend on the weightlifting governing body, who would issue the ACGA with a recommendation on his selection for the next Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in four years' time. But he conceded his behaviour was "absolutely wrong".

He said he did not know whether Etoundi was drunk.

"You can never take that medal away from him. But it would take the gloss of it, I would think. He's not going to enjoy the rest of the Games and that's what it's about," Crosswhite said.

"He will now be known around the country for what he's done. His accreditation has been revoked and he's been dismissed from the Australian team. He'll be taken to a hotel room and put on the first flight back."

Crosswhite, who said Australian and Welsh officials had held discussions since the incident, hoped the episode would not tarnish the rest of the Australian team in Glasgow.

"You go to these Games and you do everything you can to make it the best you can for everyone and it is sad when these things occur because in some respects they don't have to," he said.

"All the athletes... 99.99 per cent are doing the absolute best they can and then something like this happens."

Earlier, Australian chef de mission Steve 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 had 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," he said.

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

Meanwhile, the BBC reported on Thursday that Wales chef de mission Brian Davies had sent a letter to their athletes about their behaviour for the rest of the Commonwealth Games.

Davies reportedly told them it would be "disrespectful" if anyone "were to let themselves, their team-mates and their families down by misbehaving in any way during their time here in Glasgow".

He added: "Would you please ensure that everyone in your team maintains the impeccable standard of behaviour that is part of our One Team Wales code of conduct.

"The CGF, Police Scotland and Glasgow 2014 have all reiterated that they will take a zero tolerance approach to any misdemeanours."

The BBC reported the email had been forwarded to athletes by Welsh national athletics performance coach Scott Simpson, who said: "I trust that you will honour this agreement and uphold your responsibilities to both yourselves and to Wales.

"Please hold each other accountable to this agreement also - we are one team and have a collective responsibility for each other."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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