AOC prepared for disruptive activities at Olympics

Adrian Warren |

AOC president Ian Chesterman says Australia’s swimmers won’t be distracted by the China drug saga.
AOC president Ian Chesterman says Australia’s swimmers won’t be distracted by the China drug saga.

Australian Olympic Committee officials have addressed potential security issues and doping concerns heading into the Paris Games and have also announced grants for indigenous athletes.

With 83 days to the start of the Olympics, the AOC, which reported a $4 million surplus at its annual general meeting on Saturday, expects to have an Australian team of around 460 athletes in Paris.

AOC president Ian Chesterman was convinced Australia’s swimmers would not be distracted if any of the Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a prescription heart drug ahead of the last Olympics competed in Paris.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accepted China’s assertion that food contamination caused the positive tests for the banned substance, but Chesterman welcomed the news WADA has authorised an independent review of how it handled the case.

“Our swimmers are an incredible group of athletes who are so focused on performing well in Paris, that will be their focus. They won’t spend too much time worrying about this,” Chesterman said.

“But I do think it’s a good opportunity through this review to make sure everybody goes into the Games confident that the system is working as it should.”‘

With heightened tensions across the world, AOC CEO Matt Carroll emphasised he had confidence in the French security forces to protect athletes and said Australian Olympians and their families had been briefed on security issues, including potential delays caused by any protests or disruptions.

“To make sure families and friends aren’t anxious because that anxiety can often affect the performances of athletes and we don’t want that to happen,” Carroll said.

Carroll wasn’t worried Australian Olympians would make any controversial political statements at the Games and said they would be free to express their opinions outside of the medal podium and field of play, as allowed by the protocols of the Athletes Commission.

“Our athletes understand and respect that,” he said.

Chesterman said Australia could be an Olympic superpower right through to the 2040s if they get things right, but he shied away from making any medal tally prediction for Paris.

“We just want each athlete to have their best day on the right day. We know if they do that we will win lots of medals,” Chesterman said.

He emphasised the AOC didn’t think the redevelopment of the Gabba or the building of a new stadium was necessary for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

The AOC announced a number of initiatives including a $5000 grant to eligible indigenous athletes who meet the criteria set by their indigenous advisory committee.

“We’re hoping that at least 10 athletes will take advantage of that and hopefully a whole lot more if they get to be in the team in Paris,” Chesterman said.

“I think it will really give them a bit of last-minute support and if that money is not all spent it can help them come out of Paris to start their preparation for 2028.”

He also announced the creation of an Australian Olympic Indigenous Athlete Fund designed to generate between $500,000 and $1 million a year.

Chesterman also unveiled details of schemes which would allow philanthropists to make tax-deductible donations via the Australian Sports Foundation to a new Aspiring Australian Olympic Athlete Fund and the existing Medal Incentive fund.