Hall, Perkins Exchange Words

By Greg Buckle

SYDNEY, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Australia's dual gold medalist Kieren Perkins was officially reprimanded on Tuesday for calling American Gary Hall a "drugs cheat" as tension rose between the two nations set to dominate the Olympic swimming competition.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates told a news conference he had already spoken to Perkins' manager and would tell the swimmer himself his comments were out of line.

Perkins had been responding to comments made by Hall who wrote in his Olympic internet column that the Americans would smash the Australians "like guitars" in the Sydney Games, which open on September 15.

Mark Schubert, head coach of the American men's team, declined to comment on Perkins' remarks but said Hall would be spoken to for what he wrote.

World record holder Perkins, attempting to win gold in the 1,500 metres in his third successive Olympics, referred on Tuesday to Hall's three-month ban for testing positive for marijuana two years ago.

"I don't take a lot of notice of drug cheats so you know, I don't worry about him," said Perkins.

"He got suspended didn't he? It's fact then, there you go."

Asked if he really meant what he said, Perkins added: "I don't have to race him. What am I worried about?"

Coates said: "Kieren knows he shouldn't have said it and will be more careful. I'll remind him of that as well.

"His manager has had a talk to him and he (Perkins) acknowledges he shouldn't have said it. I will have a talk to him and just explain again the values under which our Australian team are going to compete in these Games."

The Americans were keen to play down the escalating row after their arrival in Sydney on Tuesday. "I was disappointed in Gary's comment but one person's comment doesn't reflect what the whole team thinks," Schubert said.

"I prefer they don't trash talk but I think that's just the showman in Gary. Like all of us, he has a a great deal of respect for the Australians."

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