Rio Olympics 2016: IOC chief Kitty Chiller apologizes for the 'trauma' nine Australian athletes suffered

Australian Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller, centre, said the athletes were "not at fault" but said she couldn't specify why. Photo / AP
Australian Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller, centre, said the athletes were "not at fault" but said she couldn't specify why. Photo / AP

An emotional Australian Olympic chef de mission Kitty Chiller has tearfully apologised for the 'trauma' nine athletes suffered after being held overnight by Rio police.

The nine athletes were detained by police in Rio and threatened with jail for tampering with their accreditation passes. They were released after 10 hours and given fines.

'The athletes were held at a police station for many hours and I apologise for the trauma they went through, the problem with the accreditation was not their fault,' an emotional Ms Chiller said.

'For legal reasons I am not in a position to elaborate except to say it is important to know that the Australian athletes were definitely not at fault. I am very disappointed our athletes had to go through what then went through last night.'

Australian officials were forced to pay more than AUD$36,000 to free the nine athletes after they were detained on Friday night attempting to enter the men's basketball semi-final between Australia and Serbia.

Bronze medal winning archers Alec Potts and Ryan Tyack, men's rugby sevens captain Ed Jenkins, track cyclists Melissa Hoskins and Ashlee Ankudinoff, rowers Fiona Albert, Olympia Aldersey and Lucy Stephan, and hockey player Simon Orchard were detained for more than 10 hours on Friday in Rio.

However an emotional Ms Chiller, who has taken a hard line against troublesome athletes throughout the games, was in tears at times during the press conference and said the group should not be blamed for the incident.

'I think it's very important to note that the athletes definitely were not at fault and we have and will continue to provide as much support and counselling to them and their parents and that has already commenced,' Ms Chiller said.

'It's been traditional not only in Australia, but many other countries as well to put a sticker on your accreditation with another venue access code on it.'

Track cyclist Matt Glaetzer was also detained alongside the nine athletes as a witness, however he was not required to provide a statement to police.

It was a lucky escape for the athletes who were charged with falsifying accreditation and could have been jailed under Brazilian law.

The decision by Australian officials to broker their release and pay the fines avoided a lengthy legal process which could have seen the athletes wait three weeks just to face court.

The group was released at close to 5.20am local time on Saturday morning.

Upon their release Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Fiona de Jong - who had negotiated with police on behalf of the athletes - said all parties had agreed on the punishment.

'We have apologised for that mistake at a state special events court,' Ms De Jong said.
'We have agreed to an outcome which is the payment of a fine and a good behaviour bond for each of the athletes.'

After being held for seven hours, the athletes were transferred to a State Events Court around the corner from the police station at close to 2.30am.

Three hours later they were finally freed and were ushered single file into a waiting mini-van to take them back to the athletes village.

Earlier this week, Ms Chiller and Australian officials implemented increased security policies for their Olympic athletes, including a ban on being on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches after dark.

These decisions came in the wake of the Ryan Lochte controversy when the US swimmer said he had been held at gunpoint and robbed.

IOC and Rio police launched a crackdown on accreditations following reports of the robbery.

Despite suggestions the nine athletes could be sent back to Australia early, it has now been confirmed that they will leave with the rest of the team on Monday morning.

The athletes were permitted entry to the stadium - which was nowhere near capacity - as Australia went down to Serbia 87-61, but were not sitting in the section allocated to them.

Australian officials are set to carry out an internal investigation into the incident.

- Daily Mail

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