Embattled Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates has admitted he called Australian Sports Commission chief John Wylie a “c—” during an unprovoked verbal attack on the businessman at February’s Nitro athletics event in Melbourne.
Mr Coates, who is facing a challenge from Olympic gold medallist Danni Roche for the AOC presidency at a secret ballot in May, has told the Australian Financial Review he called Mr Wylie a “liar” and “c—” to his face after the ASC boss attempted to shake hands with him at the event, which starred Olympic sprint legend Usain Bolt.
Roche challenges Coates over top job
War is declared at the very top of Australian sport and promises to get nasty as a movement begins to remove the president of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates who has held the post for 27 years.
“I don’t shake hands with liars,” Mr Coates says he told Wylie. “I don’t shake hands with c—s.”
Mr Wylie declined to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media.
John Coates: “I don’t shake hands with c—s.” Photo: KOJI SASAHARA
The admission from Mr Coates comes as serious questions are being raised about the culture within the AOC, where at least three bullying cases have been lodged by female staff against AOC executives in recent years. When asked about those cases last month, AOC media boss Mike Tancred called them “isolated issues”.
“I’m aware of complaints but they were years ago,” he said. “They were dealt with through the proper channels.”
It has since been revealed that at least one bullying case against a senior AOC executive (not Coates) remains unresolved and has stalled ahead of the AOC vote in May.
Bullying complaints against AOC executives were also lodged in 2015 and 2013.
Australian Sports Commission chairman John Wylie Photo: Michael Dodge
The bullying cases have created a jurisdictional nightmare for the NSW and Victorian governments. While the AOC head office is in Sydney, and therefore subject to NSW law, the AOC itself is registered as an incorporated association in Victoria, and is therefore governed by Victorian legislation.
According to SafeWork NSW, the use of “offensive language or comments” is listed as a key example of workplace bullying.
Danni Roche is challenging John Coates for the AOC presidency. Photo: Justin McManus
When asked about the offensive language used by the AOC president, Ms Roche told Fairfax Media “the Australian Olympic Committee and its officers should always conduct themselves in line with the fundamental ethical principles outlined in the Olympic Charter”.
She added the president of the AOC should always act in the “best interests of sports and athletes”.
Ms Roche herself has been subjected to a series of scathing attacks from Coates loyalists since announcing she would run for the presidency.
Mr Tancred said those challenging his boss were not qualified to “carry his bag”. Then one of Coates’ friends and allies, one-time ALP powerbroker Graham Richardson, called her a “patsy” for Mr Wylie, and questioned Ms Roche’s “paltry” qualifications for the job.
Mr Coates and Mr Wylie are regarded as the two of the most powerful men in Australian sport.
Mr Wylie and the ASC have questioned how the AOC distributes funds to athletes in the wake of two disappointing Olympic Games for Australian athletes.
After 27 years as president of the AOC, Mr Coates is seeking another term that would take his tenure to 30 years in the job. He has argued that his removal from the AOC would undermine Australia’s position in the global Olympic movement.
Mr Coates is vice president of the IOC, a role that expires in September this year, and remains on the Tokyo Olympics organising committee.
Hockey Australia last week devised a solution to that impasse, by moving a motion for an amendment to the AOC constitution that would allow Mr Coates to assume the position of “Honourary President”, which would allow him to stay on the Tokyo Olympics organising committee.
A precedent for such a move already exists within Olympic sport.
In 2006, controversial UCI cycling boss Hein Verbruggen was allowed to remain on the IOC’s organising committee for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, despite losing his position as an IOC member in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Mr Verbruggan was a friend and ally of Armstrong. “Lance Armstrong has never used doping,” Mr Vergruggan told a US investigation into Armstrong’s systematic cheating in 2011. “Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”
Amid a number of scandals, Mr Verbruggan quit the IOC in 2005. He was made an honorary member of the IOC the following year and allowed to remain on the organising committee for the Beijing Olympics as a result.