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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 04:32 GMT 05:32 UK
Perec out of Olympics
Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec is out of the Sydney Games after fleeing Australia.
The French sprinter left Australia in a storm of controversy amid claims a man threatened her in a hotel.
Along with boyfriend Anthuan Maybank, she sought refuge in Singapore.
But the pair were involved in a scuffle with an Australian cameraman when they arrived at Changi airport.
After being quizzed by police over 11 hours, they were released without charge on the orders of Singapore's attorney general Chan Sek Keong.
French Olympic Committee president Henri Serandour and sports minister Marie-George Buffet confirmed Perec, who was due to defend her 200m and 400m titles, will not compete.
"Marie-Jose Perec left Australian territory on Wednesday, which means she has withdrawn," they said in a joint statement.
"The French delegation doesn't know the reasons but it would like to clarify that it is in no way linked to an anti-doping test."
Perec's absence deprives the Games of a much-hyped showdown with Australia's world 400m champion Cathy Freeman, but will boost the medal hopes of Britain's Katharine Merry.
Police questioned Perec and Maybank over an attack on an Australian cameraman at the airport, where the pair were bound for Europe.
Officers had been investigating a complaint of "voluntarily causing hurt."
Television footage showed Maybank hitting the cameraman, who was taken to hospital for a check-up.
Australia's Channel Nine news director Paul Fenn said: "It was extraordinary behaviour. Maybank was hitting our cameraman in the head."
According to her agent back in Sydney, the drama started with Perec in tears after being confronted by a man at the door to her hotel room outside the Olympic village.
"He told her he would find her wherever she went and there was no point calling the police because there was little they could do to protect her," said Annick Averinos.
"She is a strong person but she was in tears and clearly alarmed when she called me."
However, hotel owners say they have no evidence to back up Perec's claims and they say their high-level security arrangements have not been breached.
Perec was considered the main rival to Freeman in the 400m, though it is unclear if this was the main reason why the alleged threats were made.
Averinos claimed that Perec had been threatened and insulted several times since arriving in Australia.
"Once a man told her she might get run over," she said. "This is not the first time something like this has happened. She just can't take any more of it."
Perec has refused all media interview requests since arriving in Sydney, claiming the Australian press are trying to sabotage her chances of winning 400m gold.
She was due to begin the defence of her 400m crown on Friday - though that was day she landed back in Paris.
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