Australia’s team boss for the Rio 2016 Olympics has defended the decision to send controversial tennis star Nick Kyrgios a 16-page letter asking him to explain his behaviour if he wanted to be picked for the Games.
Kyrgios, Australia’s highest-ranked male tennis player at 19 in the world, responded to the letter by declaring himself unavailable for selection, saying he had been subjected to “unwarranted attacks” from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
But Australia’s chef de mission for Rio, Kitty Chiller, rejected his claims, saying Kyrgios was never singled out and that she was just following the rules governing the behaviour of all team members.
“Someone needs to stand up,” she told reporters at the weekend. “Why I’m doing this is, we fought long and hard for the last three years to establish a set of behaviours for our team in Rio.
“I’m doing this for the 428 other athletes that we will have in Rio.”
Chiller confirmed that the AOC sent Krygios the 16 pages last week chronicling potentially disreputable conduct and asking him to “please explain”.
Volatile 21-year-old Kyrgios has frequently fallen foul of tennis authorities, most recently receiving a code violation at the French Open for shouting at a ball boy, and being fined for an audible obscenity during his thrashing at the hands of Richard Gasquet.
He also infamously made crude remarks last year about the girlfriend of Swiss ace Stan Wawrinka, earning a suspended 28-day ban and a US$25,000 fine.
Chiller said similar letters were sent to shooter Michael Diamond, who is facing drink-driving and firearms charges, and field hockey player Anna Flanagan, who is at the centre of an alleged drink-driving cover up.
“(They) received exactly the same letter that Nick Kyrgios did,” Chiller said. “Admittedly, Nick’s letter was 16 pages long. Theirs wasn’t quite that long.”
An outspoken and combative figure on and off the court, Kyrgios announced Friday he was pulling out of Olympic contention because the AOC had “chosen to publicly and privately disparage me”.
He said no one from the AOC had sought a meeting “to discuss their concerns” -- a claim disputed by Chiller.
“I was surprised actually because, contrary to what was in his statement, we had reached out to him,” she said.
“He received a letter on the 30th of May asking him to basically please explain, to explain his side of the story. So we had reached out to get that from him.
“He chose to not respond to that and to withdraw. So, ultimately, it’s his decision.”
If Kyrgios changes his mind, he has until June 17 to respond and the AOC executive would then “determine whether indeed he had brought himself, the sport or the Olympic movement into disrepute”.
Tennis Australia, which said in a statement last Friday that it was disappointed that Kyrgios “has been put in this position”, is due to nominate its players for selection on June 30.