The West

Bans at Sochi leave snowboarder cold

Australian athletes at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi will be banned from using social media in training and competition venues before and during next month's event.

The Australian Olympic Committee's new restrictions on athletes using their phones, tablets and other personal devices were finalised in November, along with a ban on alcohol in the Olympic village.

The crackdown is an attempt to rid the team of the antisocial behaviour that blighted its London campaign, but it has upset one young Olympian.

Snowboarder Scotty James, 19, aired his frustration with the policies, which come into force for the Games in Russia, on Twitter yesterday.

"No social media, no partying and no personal devices allowed at the Winter Olympics for Aus team. Cheers Australian swim team . . ," said James, who, at 15, was the youngest competitor at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 when he made his debut.

Australia's London campaign was dogged by stories of drunken activity. Members of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team were accused of disruptive behaviour.

Numerous Australian Olympians were regular Twitter users during the London Games, raising fears that social media were becoming a distraction.

Sydney Olympian Bill Kirby, who runs a swim school in Perth, told _The West Australian _last year that social media, particularly Twitter, should be banned. "Hearing from swimmers who are tweeting until 2am, it makes you sick, as if that's not going to affect performance," he said.

The alcohol policy prohibits athletes drinking or possessing alcohol in the Olympic Village and other team locations or drinking alcohol on the team's return flight to Australia.

While the AOC said it allowed responsible alcohol consumption, it outlined types of behaviour, such as "swaying" or "having rambling conversations", that would constitute a breach of the rules.

Mike Tancred, the AOC's communications director, said that some sports, such as cycling and sailing, restricted athletes' use of social media in London, and this had now been widened to all sports.

"It's an attempt by us to ensure that the athletes do not get distracted by social media," he said. "It's certainly not a ban. We allow the use on the bus to and from the venues, in the village and any other downtime."

The West Australian

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