Simon Cowley : world class beating (Photo: Seven Network)

Take a good look at this face. It’s what happened to Australian sportsman Simon Cowley when he fell foul of champion swimmer, Nick D’Arcy, in a bar altercation shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. D’Arcy king-hit Cowley, inflicting so much damage that his features had to be surgically rebuilt. Take another good look at this face. Because this is the face of Australia at the forthcoming 2012 London Olympic Games. Incredibly, D’Arcy is being allowed to compete, to represent his country, to represent the Australian people. It’s a breathtaking national disgrace and there’s only one medal in the offing here – for the Australian Olympic Committee for an Olympian exercise in appalling judgement and blatant amorality.

Nick D'Arcy's champion fist and, insert, how Simon Cowley looked before the assault (photo:Brisbane Times)

Australians are renowned the world over for their passion for sport and will to win. But if this is what winning means, then a sizable proportion of the Australian population would rather lose. There is only one possible result if Nick D’Arcy takes to the pool in London – as now seems certain – to compete in the butterfly championships. Ignominy. Ignominy for him, the AOC and the whole country. Australian spectators will be shamed, there’s a high chance that D’Arcy will be jeered at the venue and it’s odds on that every commentator from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe will be tempted to highlight this new low in trashing the Olympic ideal.

How has it come to this? What possible justification can there be for including this champion thug in the Olympic squad and permitting him to wear the hallowed green and gold? Incredibly, it’s emerged this weekend that agreement for Nick D’Arcy to compete in 2012 may well have been reached between him and Swimming Australia – the sport’s governing body – soon after the assault in 2008 that cost him his place in the Beijing squad. That’s right. While the rest of the country was reeling with revulsion, our sporting czars were interested in only one thing – to make sure that one of their potential medal winners was cosseted, reassured and kept in line for potential glory down the track.

Where's your moral compass? AOC boss John Coates (photo: ABC)

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend, Simon Cowley claimed that only a year after the assault, in 2009,  Swimming Australia cut a deal with Nick D’Arcy for him to drop legal threats made by him against the association. Under this deal – Cowley maintains – D’Arcy’s presence in the 2012 Olympic squad was guaranteed and Swimming Australia had no choice but to endorse him. Cowley told the Herald his source for this information was Swimming Australia’s CEO, Kevin Neil. The SA president, David Urquart,  said yesterday he believed “nothing untoward” had happened and “there was no deal done as far as I was concerned”. It’s a less than absolute denial that deserves to be pursued at the highest levels given Urquart’s confident declaration that Nick D’Arcy’s place in London is assured.

Yet incredibly, the head of the Australian Olympic Committee , John Coates, has said he sees no reason to investigate Swimming Australia’s conduct or revisit the question of whether Nick D’Arcy should compete in London. Yes, this wayward Cinderella of swimming is going to the ball – criminal record and all – and we all just have to get used to it. Well, sorry John. You might run the AOC but Australian taxpayers provide the Olympic movement and its sports with more than $100 million dollars a year. And if you want to keep it, you’d better start listening.

Thugs prosper: Money and Olympic fame (photo: News Limited)

Nick D’Arcy was sacked from the Olympics team in 2008 and was banned from the 2009 World Championships after pleading guilty to assault. When he was ordered to pay Simon Cowley $370-thousand in damages and costs last year, what did he do? He got off scot-free by declaring himself bankrupt. What a wonderful sport he is.  What an example to aspiring Olympic swimmers and the young people of Australia. In their will to win, the moral compass of our sporting administrators has been lost. The reward for hideous violence is a place in the Olympic spotlight. The decision to include D’Arcy in the team must be reversed and as quickly as possible. And if the AOC won’t do it, the Australian Government should step in. It should withdraw all funding and government patronage for the entire sporting fraternity until this shameful decision is reversed.