Australian weightlifting has been rocked by claims one of its top athletes demanded $5,000 to compete at an Olympic qualifying event, knowing Australia's chance of having a competitor at the London Games would be wrecked if he withdrew.
Cameroon-born Daniel Koum made the demand last week, 40 minutes before he was due to compete at the Oceania Championships in Samoa, Australian Weightlifting Federation chief Michael Keelan said on Wednesday.
Australia had to finish among the top six teams at the championships to gain a single place in the men's competition at London. To do so depended on the cumulative performance of all lifters and Koum's withdrawal would have made that impossible.
''He's made a demand, he wants $5,000 or we can kiss our Olympic Games men's team goodbye,'' Keelan said. ''And as far as I'm concerned that's blackmail and extortion.''
Koum denied the claims, calling them shocking and disappointing. One of three Cameroon weightlifters who remained in Australia after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, he said he spent thousands of dollars funding his own competition costs since he became a member of the Australia team.
''I'm very shocked,'' he said. ''. . . I've put all my financial money to represent this country and they're accusing me for $5,000?''
Keelan said he and other AWF officials succeeded in raising the payment Koum demanded in cash to ensure he took part in the Oceania competition.
The AWF is investigating the incident and the Australian Olympic Committee said it hoped to hear the outcome of that investigation by Friday.