LONDON (Reuters) - The weightlifting official who blew the whistle on Australia's 'pay to lift' scandal was not dumped from the delegation for the London Olympics because of the row, Chef de Mission Nick Green insisted on Tuesday.
Michael Keelan went public last month with the allegation that lifter Daniel Koum had demanded A$5,000 (3313 pounds) to compete at an event where his participation was essential to allow his country to win a berth at the Games.
Cameroon-born Koum denied the allegations and announced his intention to sue Keelan for defamation.
Keelan, head of the Australian Weightlifting Federation (AWF), had expected to accompany Australia's two lifters to London but team officials subsequently replaced him with the personal coaches of Damon Kelly and Seen Lee.
"From a personal point of view, Mike's been in my gym since I started weightlifting so it's hard to know what to feel because he got dumped and my personal coach got promoted," super-heavyweight Kelly told a news conference on Tuesday.
"It's hard to put in to words but so far it's working."
Green, also on the podium, then interjected.
"Could I just clarify, Mike Keelan was not dumped," he said.
"At the Australian Olympic Committee (IOC), in a small team there is preference in those sports to have the personal coaches.
"In the case of weightlifting, personal coaches were preferred over the top of an administrator to ensure the athletes have everything they need and the best support they can during the Games.
"That's consistent with other sports, particularly in the smaller teams."
Kelly, who finished ninth in the over-105kg class in Beijing four years ago, said he accepted Green's assurance that Keelan's exclusion was nothing to do with the Koum case.
Keelan alleged the incident occurred at June's Oceania championships in Samoa, which doubled as an Olympic qualifier and where the Australian men's team needed a good finish to win a place in London.
Concerned that Koum was not sufficiently motivated to reach his potential in his competition, Keelan offered him a $1,000 (644.21 pounds) incentive only for Koum to demand five times that amount.
Keelan said he and other officials were forced to dig into their pockets to get the cash together before Koum would compete.