Athletes with an elite stamina for partying are again proving a problem for others in the Olympic Village with a group of Australian rugby players “read the riot act” by team management just days after a Dutch athlete was expelled from the Games.
On Saturday morning, members of the men’s Rugby Sevens returned to the village at 9am after a boozy night out, with captain Ed Jenkins reportedly unable to locate his accreditation, which he subsequently found to gain access.
Chef de mission Kitty Chiller disciplined the boozy players, who were bundled out in the quarter-finals by South Africa on Wednesday.
“Yes, I read them the riot act,” Chiller said when contacted by Australian media on Saturday night.
Chiller sternly warned all athletes wearing the green and gold prior to the Games that they were not permitted to drink alcohol in the athletes village, or be drunk around athletes who were still competing.
But drunken misbehaviour is a part of every Games, and the Australian men’s Rugby Sevens team is the latest to be reprimanded in Brazil.
The Aussie rugby boys join gymnast Yuri van Gelder in the naughty corner, after the Dutch athlete was expelled from Rio for violating team protocols by going out drinking after qualifying for the rings final last weekend.
These incidents bookended a comparatively heartwarming story from the Great Britain camp, with the women’s pursuit team – who were still to compete in the final – leaving a note for their triumphant men’s counterparts, requesting they didn’t come into their room after a night of celebrating gold medal success.
Hats off to the girls they know us too well 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/N9xgcXzN1M
— Owain Doull (@owaindoull) August 13, 2016
There has been no suggestion of misconduct on the part of the cyclists, but the anecdote did emphasise that for the majority at the Olympics the end of their athletic obligations goes hand in hand with getting on the booze.
It’s hardly surprising, either.
These are young men and women who have made incredible sacrifices for several years, and win or lose, the natural inclination for most is to let their hair down once the pressure valve is released.
But Chiller’s personal experience as an Olympic athlete explains her hard-line stance.
In the Sydney 2000 Games, Chiller was a competitor in the pentathlon, which was crammed in on the final day.
She finished 14th – and her prospects weren’t helped by a late-night disturbance in the athletes village.
“My event started at 6.30 in the morning, I had to get up at 4.30, five,” Chiller recalled earlier this year
“And there was a team – I won’t say which one it was – and they had decided to have a party just outside our hut, and they came into the lounge room where I was staying and took the fridge and took the couch outside.
“Then they decided to play with the fire hydrant. It was two o’clock in the morning and I was still wide awake so I took my pillow and doona and walked up to one of the medical staff’s office rooms and knocked on the door and said ‘can I just lie down here for two hours?’”
The policy spearheaded by Chiller was predominantly impacted by Australia’s 2012 Olympic campaign, with the team’s generally disappointing results in London underpinned by a destructive party culture.
Pippa Grange’s inquiry into the swimming team’s performance revealed athletes were guilty of “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying”.
Rower Josh Booth was sent home early after infamously getting arrested for smashing the windows of two small businesses in Egham while intoxicated.
Every Games is littered with similar stories, and it’s unlikely the Aussie Sevens team and van Gelder will be the last – or worst – offenders at Rio.
It poses the question – why do athletes remain in the Village – sometimes for weeks – after competing?
Australia’s athletes should take heed of Chiller’s latest comments and behave themselves.
An early flight home might be on the cards otherwise.