After Getting Booted from Olympics for Partying, Dutch Gymnast's Court Appeal Denied
Gymnast Yuri van Gelder was kicked off the Dutch Olympic team for partying. He sued. His appeal was denied.
Yuri van Gelder is good at the rings, but not so good at avoiding trouble. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
High drama in Dutch gymnastics, you guys.
On Monday, Yuri "Lord of the Rings" van Gelder, its star on the rings who won the 2005 World Championships and three European titles in that discipline, was sent back home to the Netherlands by the Dutch delegation for spending a night out on the town after qualifying for Monday's finals.
So, upon his return, van Gelder brought suit against the Dutch Olympic Committee in an abbreviated procedure, arguing that his punishment was excessive. He demanded reinstatement in time for the final, a first- or business-class ticket back to Rio, and 150,000 euro in damages.
On Friday, a Dutch judge ruled that the national Olympic committee was justified in expelling him from the Games. Van Gelder's spot in the finals has been awarded to Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues of France.
Van Gelder is a controversial athlete in his home country, where his party boy habits have made him a tabloid staple. He was previously suspended for a year from mid-2009 through mid-2010 because of his cocaine habit, which initially barred him from qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. He also lost his day job in the Dutch army – which is really a thing. In late 2010, he was kicked off the Dutch gymnastics team again for relapsing, although he claimed the real reason was his fear of failure.
So he was on thin ice in Rio. But on Saturday night, after becoming the eighth and last man to qualify for the rings finals by 0.025 points, he left the Olympic Village and went AWOL for several hours. His coach told him not to drink and to be back by midnight. But according to a report by Algemeen Dagblad, van Gelder drank and smoked heavily at the Holland Heineken House and then went out clubbing in Rio. He returned at 5am, missing his curfew, and slept through his morning practice. He didn't get out of bed until 3pm. He says he never got his coach's WhatsApp message about practice. According to teammates, he appeared confused upon his return and when they'd asked him if he'd been smart to go out, he'd told them he "didn't give a shit."
The Dutch gymnastics federation asked the Dutch Olympic delegation to banish him and it obliged.
Van Gelder's defense was rather priceless. He claimed he hadn't abused alcohol but merely had "four or five beers" at the Holland Heineken House, the famed Dutch fan venue. And that even if he had, that wouldn't justify the sanction. Van Gelder and his lawyer say he had ordered a soda at the HHH, but that people kept giving him beer. Ah, the old "They made me/I was tricked" excuse.
According to his lawyer, he'd also never actually entered any night club. Instead, they say, he stopped drinking after leaving the HHH, brought several guests back to their apartment in Rio and then went to the club just to pick up his girlfriend and a fellow gymnast. They claim he waited outside. They also argued that he'd never been told he couldn't leave the Olympic Village and that his coach was aware that he wouldn't be back before his midnight curfew, as if that makes it better. Oh, and they pointed out that he hadn't made a lot of noise when he got back to the dorms at 5am. Because if Mom and Dad don't wake up, it never happened.