I had trouble linking. Full story from todays Melbourne paper below.
Sally Robbins should never have been selected for the final of the women’s eights in Athens after she rowed poorly earlier in the Games, according to a confidential Australian Olympic Committee report and angry parents who have accused officials of a cover-up.
The crew was so concerned that Robbins would again fall short in the final that the rower sitting in front of her had a message inscribed on the back of her uniform imploring Robbins not to stop rowing, according to one parent.
The ploy failed. Robbins collapsed in the final, costing Australia any chance of a medal and generating criticism from many of her teammates.
The AOC report expresses dismay that Robbins’ below-par performance in the repechage, in which Australia finished third behind Romania and Germany, did not rule her out of selection in the final.
Three parents of crew members last month met a senior official of the Federal Government’s sporting arm, the Australian Sports Commission, to voice their concerns.
These also included allegations that the women were told what to say at a news conference intended to put the controversy to rest.
There is now a real chance an independent investigator might be appointed by the ASC to review the case.
One of the parents who attended the meeting, John Doyle, the father of rower Kyeema Doyle, confirmed last night that Robbins’ performance in the repechage was a critical issue.
He said the crew called a meeting after the race and lined up an alternative rower for the final. “The coach was aware but he couldn’t get Sally out of the crew,” Mr Doyle said.
"We heard the selectors were frightened to dump her and couldn’t believe she would go that bad again in the final.
"But the girls knew. That’s why they were so angry after the race.
“They held a meeting with the coach, the captain and the cox and they tried to talk to Sally, hoping she would make the call. But she said she’d be fine - and she wasn’t.”
He said the women’s desperation extended to having the message written on the back of crew member Victoria Roberts, who sat in front of Robbins.
Dissatisfied over the handling of the affair, three parents met ASC senior official Brent Espeland. These included Mr Doyle and a parent of Catriona Oliver, who was given a two-year suspended sentence by rowing authorities for slapping Robbins at an Olympic team function after the Games.
ASC chief executive Mark Peters said: "We are aware there are unresolved issues that the ASC will talk to both Rowing Australia and the AOC about in order to determine if there is a need for a further investigation.
"There is still a lot of emotion in the issue.
“Until we get something signed by the daughters of the parents, we can’t act. If that happens, we will appoint an independent investigator.”
Rowing Australia confirmed it had responded to letters from parents of the crew, but has confined face-to-face meetings with three representatives of the crew - rowers Monique Heinke, Kyeema Doyle and Julia Wilson.
Acknowledging the parents’ concerns, Rowing Australia media manager David Pembroke said: “They were in Athens. They have been upset for some time.”
Asked whether any action had been taken against coaches following the revelation of the poor performance by Robbins earlier in the Games, Pembroke said: “Rowing Australia selects the coaches to the Olympic team. They have the experience and expertise to make the calls on who should be in the crews on any particular day.”
The contract of the women’s eight coach, Harald Jahrling, expires at the end of this year.
The AOC spokesman denied any screening of what the rowers could say to the media in Athens, claiming the crew arrived in uniform outside the Australian office in the athletes village at 7.30am, requesting a press conference.
AOC media manager Mike Tancred said the AOC’s only involvement in the rehearsed answers was via late-night mentoring by former Wallaby captain John Eales, a team attache.
“There is no way we told the girls in the rowing eight what to say and what not to say,” he said.
“Chef de mission John Coates handed responsibility to John Eales and they decided with him what to say and turned up for a press conference.”
However, the rowers travelled on three buses to the press centre and athletes overhead them still arguing about what to say.
Mr Doyle said the parents’ grief was compounded by the frustration that Rowing Australia was “waiting us out”.
“How could the head of Rowing Australia, Pat McNamara (a former deputy premier of Victoria), go on national TV and say the girls should stop complaining because they were never going to win a medal anyway,” he said. “For him to belittle them . . . they put four years effort into it. It’s the biggest load of crap I’ve heard.”
Mr Doyle said of Robbins’ persistent refusal to apologise to the crew: “They are still a bit angry with her. But the parents will go away when Rowing Australia admit they could have handled it better.”
Rowing Australia receives the highest payment of any sport funded by the ASC. Earlier this year, the ASC appointed former WA judge Robert Anderson to investigate the AIS cycling program following drug allegations.