SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s number one tennis player Nick Kyrgios has blamed “unfair and unjust treatment” at the hands of his country’s Olympic Committee for his decision not take part in the Rio Summer Games.
The world number 19 on Friday joined Bernard Tomic in withdrawing his name from consideration, a month after Australia’s chef de mission Kitty Chiller said the pair were among a number of athletes whose behavior was being monitored.
Tomic, ranked 22nd in the world, ruled himself out in mid-May because of his “extremely busy” playing schedule but Kyrgios laid the blame squarely at the door of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
“It is with a heavy heart that I have had to make a decision not to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Kyrgios said in a statement on Friday.
“Representing Australia at the Olympic Games has been a dream of mine since I was a kid ... Unfortunately, while I have expressed every intention of trying to win a medal for my country in Rio, it’s very clear to me that the Australian Olympic Committee has other plans.”
Kyrgios said the AOC’s treatment of him over the last month had been “unfair and unjust” and they had made it “crystal clear” their opposition to his being part of the team.
Tennis Australia will nominate the players to take part in the Aug. 5-21 Games but they must then be ratified by Chiller and the AOC.
“While I have received assurances from Tennis Australia that I will be nominated for the Olympic team, the AOC has chosen to publicly and privately disparage me,” Kyrgios’s statement continued.
“The AOC’s unwarranted attacks on me demonstrate the organization’s inability to understand the circumstances surrounding highly competitive sports.”
Kyrgios said he did not want the row with the AOC to distract the Australian team from their preparations for Rio and hoped to represent Australia at a future Olympics.
The 21-year-old has become a divisive figure in Australia, particularly after a string of unsavory incidents over the last 12 months.
He was given a suspended ban by the ATP last year for an off-color comment directed at Stan Wawrinka and was booed by his home crowd at the Australian Open in January after a running battle with a chair umpire.
He had been praised by Tennis Australia for improvements in his behavior this year, however, but his robust response to Chiller’s warning was seen by many media commentators as confirmation of his petulance.
Chiller has made athlete behavior one of her main priorities for Rio after Australia’s disappointing 2012 Olympics was accompanied by a crisis of team culture in the swimming squad, which a later report said had become a “toxic” environment.
“At this point, Nick Kyrgios, or any other tennis athlete, has not been nominated for selection on the Australian Olympic Team,” Chiller said in a short statement on Friday.
“In regard to selection every athlete in contention is treated equally and fairly. We have no further comment on this issue.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Larry Fine/Steve Keating.