Nick D’Arcy Being Jerked Around

By John Lohn

CRANBURY, New Jersey, April 10. THIS summer was going to be Nick D'Arcy's period of redemption, the chance to make up for lost time. He would travel to the World Championships in Rome and, if the blueprint went accordingly, he would have a medal draped around his neck as he stood side-by-side with the best on the planet in the 200 butterfly.

Suddenly, recent history would be forgotten and the Australian would be in the headlines for positive reasons, not negative. He would have the chance to turn the page, as they say, and put an ugly aspect of his life in the rearview mirror. While he would never escape The Punch Heard Round the Swimming World, it would move to the back burner, no longer simmering in full view of the sport.

As a refresher course, D'Arcy is the young man, immensely talented in the 200 fly, who crushed his own Olympic dreams last year. Just after qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in his specialty, D'Arcy attacked Simon Cowley in a Sydney bar, inflicting serious damage. A former Commonwealth Games medalist, Cowley's injuries included a broken nose and fractures to his cheekbone, eye socket and jaw.

Following the incident, the Australian Olympic Committee opted to toss D'Arcy off the Aussie squad that would travel to China for the 29th Olympiad. The decision by the AOC seemed reasonable, as D'Arcy surely brought disrepute to his sport and country. A year later, D'Arcy continues to be blackballed, and therein lies the problem. He has not been given the chance to start fresh.

Recently given a 14-month suspended sentence by the Australian court system, D'Arcy was informed by Swimming Australia earlier this week that, as was the case with the Beijing Games, he was being tossed off the squad that will travel to Rome for the World Champs. The question: If Swimming Australia was headed in this direction, why did the organization even allow D'Arcy to compete for a slot on the team bound for Italy?

Swimming Australia has told its national media that D'Arcy knew the nature of the conduct contract he signed. Yet, that's not the point. The Aussie Trials to select the team for the World Championships were held last month. Couldn't Swimming Australia have decided before that competition that D'Arcy was ineligible for Rome? A decision of that sort wouldn't have wasted D'Arcy's time and it could have avoided the circus that has arisen.

There's no doubt that Nick D'Arcy committed a despicable and stupid act after punching his ticket for Beijing. Being booted from that team was more than appropriate. Now, though, he has been strung along, led to believe that his career would go forward, only to have it short-circuited again. All the hours of training that went toward his Rome berth are meaningless.

If D'Arcy had been told by Swimming Australia that he would be banned for life after the incident – and that scenario may happen at some point – that decision would have been acceptable, for it would have been timely. Instead, the organization that oversees the sport Down Under danced around the issue, waiting for the courts to render a sentence on D'Arcy's case. Really, was that necessary? Make a call. He's either done or he can continue. Don't wait until he's qualified for a second international squad, then say, "Oh, by the way, you're not going."

Obviously, Simon Cowley is the victim of what went down in Sydney more than a year ago. No one is debating that fact, and his dealing with serious facial injuries is a terrible thing. But, through its indecision and poor timing, Swimming Australia has made Nick D'Arcy into a victim of sorts as well. One way or another, he should have been given a clear understanding of what his future in the sport entailed, not jerked around.