Australian athlete fined, stripped of Commonwealth accreditation for assault on rival

Francois Etoundi was to be in court Thursday.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland — An Australian medal-winning weightlifter was convicted Thursday of head-butting another competitor in the athletes’ village and Australia’s track and field coach was sent home for criticizing his top star — just as the country’s 20-year domination of the competition appeared to be coming to an end.

Australia has topped the medals standings at every Commonwealth Games since 1990 but slipped to second place behind England on Wednesday, trailing 41-35 in the gold medal count. With the games ending on Sunday, Australia looked unlikely to regain the lead because swimming, where the team won 19 of the total 44 golds, has been completed.

The Australian spotlight shifted from the venues to Glasgow Sheriff Court, where weightlifter Francois Etoundi pleaded guilty to assaulting Welsh counterpart Gareth Evans early Wednesday in the village dining room, breaking his nose.

The Cameroon-born Etoundi, who won the bronze medal in the 77-kilogram (170-pound) division on Sunday, was ordered to pay 400 pounds ($675) compensation to Evans. The incident occurred after a verbal exchange relating to the girlfriend of Evans, who finished fifth in the 62-kilogram (137-pound) division.

"Your behavior not least undermines the concept of the friendly games which we are so proud to have here in Glasgow," Sheriff Andrew Cubie told Etoundi. "Many people don’t have the skills or opportunities or support network that you have, and yet you have chosen to bring the law of the playground into Commonwealth Games village … falling out with someone over a girl."

Etoundi could face sporting sanctions back in Australia, where he will be returning imminently.

"He is bitterly, bitterly disappointed with things," said Etoundi’s lawyer, David Hunter. "The gloss of winning the medal has been removed."

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper described it as a "very serious incident" and said Etoundi had already been stripped of his games accreditation.

"I made it clear I didn’t want him back in the village when violent behavior is asserted," Hooper said. "The games have to be safe and secure."

"It is a big village like a city that has developed over a very short period of time," Hooper said. "People have to respect each other’s space and this sort of behavior will not be tolerated."

On a tumultuous day for Australia, officials also had to deal with strife within the track and field team. Eric Hollingsworth, head coach of the athletics team, was ordered to return home as punishment for releasing an unauthorized statement criticizing Olympic hurdles champion Sally Pearson for not attending the team’s pre-Glasgow training camp.

"We decided the appropriate action was to revoke his accreditation and he will fly home as soon as possible," Australia chef de mission Steve Moneghetti said.

"He understands the sanctions that have been imposed on him and he has his right to his own views and opinions on the matter. He’s been open and honest with us, but he breached the team agreement set by the Australian Commonwealth Games Federation and that is like our bible to us."

Hollingsworth cut Pearson’s funding for her Commonwealth Games preparations after she opted not to attend the athletics team’s training camp in England, saying "her no-show sets a bad example to the entire national team."

Pearson, who won gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 world championships, was due to open the defense of her Commonwealth title later Thursday.

"She is focused on her performances and when I spoke to her last night she appeared to be no different from her normal self," Moneghetti said Thursday morning.

Australia’s turmoil at the Commonwealth Games comes two years after a demoralizing London Olympics when the team endured its worst medal haul since the 1992 Barcelona Games.

An Australian rower was sent home from the 2012 Olympics after damaging two stores outside London.