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Four Australia under-23 players banned for 'unprofessional conduct'

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By Reuters

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Football Federation Australia has handed lengthy bans to four members of the country’s Olympic squad for “unprofessional conduct” at the end of an under-23 tournament in Cambodia in March following a complaint from a woman.

Nathaniel Atkinson, Lachlan Wales and Brandon Wilson were banned until Aug. 10 2020, meaning they will miss the Tokyo Olympics. Captain Riley McGree was banned until April 1 next year.

All four would participate in “education courses and counselling” as directed by the governing body, the FFA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The four were found to have breached the FFA’s code of conduct during a night out at the end of the Asian Football Confederation U-23 championship qualifying tournament.

“Specifically, the FFA Board found that the players engaged in unprofessional conduct,” the FFA said.

“The matter came to the attention of FFA in April, 2019 following a complaint by a woman.”

It was unclear what the nature of the complaint was.

State broadcaster ABC reported the complaint had been made earlier in the year to government funding agency Sport Australia.

The FFA said it had launched an investigation shortly after receiving the complaint but that it had taken months to complete due to its “complexity”.

The players were due to travel to China on Nov. 9 to prepare for the AFC U-23 championship in January but were held back pending the sanction. They have recourse to appeal the decision to an independent committee, the FFA said.

“These sanctions are commensurate to the nature of the breaches,” FFA Chairman Chris Nikou said.

“Upholding our commitment to respect and responsibility cannot be compromised.

“The players have understood the gravity of their actions and have positively commenced respectful relationship programs that will ensure they appreciate these values in the future.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)