Olympics: 'Lord of the Rings' Dutch gymnast sent home over drunken spree

Van Gelder during training in Rio on Aug 3, 2016.
Van Gelder during training in Rio on Aug 3, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Dutch gymnast Yuri Van Gelder, dubbed the "Lord of the Rings", returned home in disgrace on Tuesday (Aug 9) after being kicked off his country's Olympics team for a night out drinking in Rio.

The 2005 world men's rings champion had sealed a place in Rio in the men's rings finals, after coming seventh in Saturday's qualifiers.

But flouting strict rules imposed on the Dutch team he then went out to celebrate in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, failing to return until the early hours of Sunday.

"This has been a very difficult decision for us," Dutch team ambassador Maurits Hendriks said.

"I think this is really terrible for Yuri, but such behaviour is unacceptable. It does not belong in the Olympics or any kind of sporting competition."

The Dutch Olympics team said Van Gelder, 33, who had finally realised his dream to compete in his first Olympics, had admitted "consuming alcohol" outside the Olympic village and had been "withdrawn from the competition."

Hendriks added the team leadership "had been left with no choice" but to bar Van Gelder from continuing in the Games.

It's not the first time that Van Gelder has landed himself in hot water.

In 2009, he tested positive for cocaine use during the Dutch championships and was suspended for a year. He was treated for addiction in France.

The gymnast's manager Orlando van den Bosch told the Dutch news agency ANP that Van Gelder had been "dealt a heavy blow" as he had high hopes of winning a medal.

His place in next Monday's rings final will go to France's Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues, the second replacement athlete added to the final. After France's Samir Ait Said broke his leg in qualifications, Ukraine's Igor Radivilov took his place.

"I Never Lost Faith, Always Kept Fighting And Never Ever Gave Up ! So Proud To Be Here #teamnl #rio2016," Van Gelder had tweeted on his arrival in Rio.

The Dutch men have another medal hope in Rio despite failing to qualify for Monday's team final, with Olympic champion Epke Zonderland, known as "the flying Dutchman", defending his horizontal bar title.

Bart Deurloo qualified for Wednesday's all-around final.

It was the second setback for the Dutch Olympics squad, after Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten landed in intensive care after a horrific crash on Sunday.

She was leading the 137km women's road race when she slipped on a dangerous descent just 10km from the finish and tumbled head first over her handlebars suffering three cracked vertebrae.

Dutch team-mate Anna van der Breggen went on to win the race - the first and so far only gold for The Netherlands.