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Cowley Insists D'Arcy Deal Was Done

May 7, 2012  - Craig Lord

Simon Cowley, the swimmer assaulted by Nick D'Arcy in the wake of the 2008 Australian Olympic trials, has hit back at Swimming Australia claims that no deal was done to allow the butterfly ace who escaped paying the fine he was due by declaring himself bankrupt on to the London 2012 squad.

The evidence, Cowley tells the Sydney Morning Herald today, is to be found on the federation's own website, Cowley says.

Now 31, the winner of three Commonwealth Games gold medals who had to have his face rebuilt after D'Arcy walloped him in a Sydney bar after 2008 trials, points to a Swimming Australia media release on April 23, 2009, in which David Urquhart, federation president, states: "It was good to be able to speak to Nick and also his family and lawyers and come to an agreement that all parties were satisfied with."

Cowley had claimed that the federation's chief executive, Kevin Neil, told him in 2009 that D'Arcy had threatened to sue Swimming Australia after it barred him from competing at the world championships in Rome that year. That threat, Cowley alleges, was dropped when Swimming Australia shelved a judiciary committee inquiry into D'Arcy's behaviour and provided the swimmer with a guarantee that he would be on any future teams he qualified for. Cowley says that it was Neil who told him that.

On Saturday,  Urquhart told reporters: "There was no deal done with anyone about anything as far as I was concerned."

Cowley is standing by his claim, noting a press release on April 7, 2009, in which Swimming Australia stated that the decision to bar D'Arcy from the Rome 2009 world titles team would not affect a judiciary committee investigation into whether he had breached the federation rules, which require competitors to be "ethical, considerate, fair and honest",  refrain from abuse, harassment or victimisation of others and "be a positive role model".

Just two weeks later, the federation's April 23 statement held that Swimming Australia had "come to an agreement with Nicholas D'Arcy regarding his swimming future" and that "the referral to the judiciary committee is no longer required".

The affair is hot Down Under. Reporter Wayne Smith at The Australian, has an interview with Laurie Lawrence in which  the veteran coach who is working with D'Arcy at coach Michael Bohl's Queensland programme, notes that there are no winners in the D'Arcy-Cowley saga.

"There are no winners in this," Lawrence told The Australian. "Simon Cowley is no winner. He's got a smashed face that needed to be rebuilt. And D'Arcy is no winner either. He missed the Beijing Olympics and the 2009 world swimming championships and he's got that on his record for the rest of his life.

"All he can do now is get on with his life. He made the Olympic team. A lot of other people would have given the sport away. A lot of people wouldn't have had the guts to go on. But it's a lesson to young kids to see what effect alcohol can have on your life."

"I'm happy to work with the boy," Lawrence said of D'Arcy. "And nothing would please me more than to see him get up in London and beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly."

Those helping D'Arcy are using the swimmer's prospects of winning a medal for Australia as the greater cause. "You can't afford to be sidetracked," Bohl tells Smith. "Nick is a contender for a medal but he is up against a formidable rival in Phelps. I think a lot of people have made up their minds about him already,'' he said. "He's not going to win everyone over in the popularity stakes. But the Olympics are not about popularity. They're about pitting the best against the best."

They are also about Olympism, the Olympic Charter including the likes of:

  • to encourage and support the promotion of ethics and good governance in sport as  well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned;
  • to take action against any form of discrimination and violence in sport;
  • to be eligible for participation in the Olympic Games, a competitor, coach, trainer must… respect the spirit of fair play and non violence, and behave accordingly

D'Arcy was dropped from the 2008 Olympic team and has paid a high price for what he did in terms of missing his first chance to represent a country. Doping cheats get a second chance (though many wish they wouldn't) so it would be deelpy unfair for D'Arcy to be barred from the Olympic pool forever, some believe.

Bohl noted that D'Arcy is very popular with teammates, hard-working and singularly focussed on getting the best out of himself in the pool. The coach also said: "But my view is that he has been punished by Swimming Australia, by the Australian Olympic Committee and the courts. How long do you keep punishing him?

Many Down Under answer as follows: when he pays Cowley what the court said he was due after causing damage and consequences that Cowley will live with for the rest of his life. That argument cuts to the heart of why many in Australia feel that D'Arcy remains a bad boy who ought not to be rewarded.

A trawl of comments left by SMH readers does not make happy reading for D'Arcy and those who support his right to a place on the Australia team for London 2012:

  • For those who argue that D'Arcy has "paid his penalty" for his cowardly and criminal behaviour, let me remind you that he has consistently sought to avoid responsibility for his actions ...
  • D'Arcy's selection compromises everything of value that the Olympic movement is supposed to represent.
  • At just about every primary and secondary school in Australia sometime this year, most likely at a school assembly, the Olympic code and the ideals of Baron Pierre de Coubertin will be raised. Teachers and parents should be prepared for the questions from alert kids (and they are alert) on Nick D'Arcy and Australian swimming.
  • If true, Swimming Australia's allegedly secret deal with Nick D'Arcy is a king hit to fairness and justice beyond mere sport because it will fuel suspicions that the powerful can flourish where ordinary folk fall. 
  • Swimming Australia must be so desperate for a chance at a medal in London that it does not care about its reputation. 
  • There is no point in continuing to rake over the Cowley/D'Arcy matter. In Australia, the possibility of an Olympic medal trumps integrity and decency.
  • If Swimming Australia lets Nick D'Arcy remain in the Australian swimming team, could it be agreed that, if he should win a medal, it will not be counted in the Australian medal tally?
  • Nick D'Arcy is an utter disgrace; no remorse shown to Simon Cowley, no damages paid. 

And on and on those comments go…