EXCLUSIVE!! Touretski Cleared of All Charges

By Stephen J. Thomas

SYDNEY, April 12. RUSSIAN born super-coach Gennadi Touretski was cleared today of three charges relating to his alleged behavior on a Qantas flight while returning to Australia after attending the Monaco and Rome legs of the Mare Nostrum series last June.

Soon after the incident, Touretski was suspended and subsequently dismissed from his coaching position at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), which he had held since late 1992. Some sections of the Australian press at the time of the incident were particularly severe on the controversial coach concluding he had been drunk and offensive to female passengers.

After two full days in a Sydney court, the magistrate ruled that the three charges which relating to Touretski's alleged harassment of one female passenger and assault on two male flight attendants be dismissed.

The female passenger called as a witness for the prosecution in relation to the first charge made it clear that she did not consider that Touretski's behavior had in any way been offensive, a presumption of the cabin staff. It was also concluded that Touretski had not been drunk but his manner was rather of someone affected by medication in combination with the adverse impact of the long flight.

Touretski told SwimInfo that he was determined to be present at the court hearing despite having to endure another extended plane journey from Switzerland where he now resides, on top of the fears associated with the war in Iraq and the SARS virus.

Touretski left Australia in January to take up a consultancy to the Swiss Olympic Committee, which also allows him to continue coaching his long-time protégé Alexander Popov in preparation for the World Championships in Barcelona.

In his unique fashion, Touretski said he was naturally very pleased with the ruling and held no animosity towards those involved in the allegations. He described the experience, including two hours of cross-examination, as a somewhat surreal experience reminiscent of watching a courtroom movie drama unfold, except, in this case, it was real.

Touretski had returned to Australia for just the week of the court appearance and returns to Europe tomorrow to supervise a training camp in Zurich that begins on Monday.