SPORTS

Diamond’s guns could fire

Assault charges against Australian Olympic trap-shooting champion Michael Diamond were dropped yesterday after a magistrate said evidence provided by the athlete’s former girlfriend, the alleged victim, was not credible. Diamond’s Olympic future was put in doubt over the case after his firearms license was suspended when he was charged with assaulting Tracey Kennedy in a club car park last September. He was also charged with failing to properly secure a handgun. The lack of a firearms license prevented him from contesting the national championships earlier this month, which doubled as a selection trial for the Athens Olympics. Diamond, an Australian of Greek descent, had claimed Kennedy, who had a prior conviction for assault, concocted the allegation about him to destroy his Olympic dream in revenge for him ending their relationship. Photographs were produced showing injuries to Diamond’s eyelid and kneecap allegedly caused by Kennedy, who was said to have kicked him in the testicles and dragged her fingernails across his face after accusing him of flirting with another woman. Magistrate Paula Russell ruled yesterday that the prosecution had not established its assault case and found that Kennedy and her brother, Michael, did not give credible evidence. She also dropped the firearms charge against Diamond. The Australian Shooters Association (ASA) has previously said it would not be fair to other athletes to change its selection criteria to allow Diamond to qualify for the team. It said Diamond would have to apply to the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport. Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates said Diamond had been dealt a cruel blow. «It does seem unjust to me without prejudging this that he was unable to participate in one of the two trials because of a charge for which he’s now been exonerated,» Coates said. «The timing has dealt him a very cruel blow.» But he said the AOC was prepared to consider an application by the shooting federation if it changed its mind. «There are some difficulties, though, for him to be selected for the team,» Coates said. «He can’t be selected on the basis of the existing nomination criteria for shooting which doesn’t have any provision for extenuating circumstances.» Diamond told reporters outside the court he was elated by the magistrate’s decision. «I am very happy to have been given the chance to prove my innocence,» he said. «Any criminal conviction, I believe, is not a very good thing to have alongside your name, especially in the sport I am involved in.» Diamond, who said he would now apply to New South Wales authorities to have his firearms license reinstated, hopes to compete in a second Olympic selection trial here next month. «If I win the next two events, I will have enough points,» he said. But ASA spokesman Graham Rose told commercial television that the shooter would have to equal the world record to reach the qualification mark. Diamond won Australia’s first gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics and repeated his performance at the Sydney Games in 2000. (AFP)