Former basketball great Andrew Bogut has weighed in on Opals star Liz Cambage’s shock withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics after citing struggles with her ‘mental health’.
In a bombshell announcement on Friday, Cambage withdrew from the games telling her fans she was at ‘breaking point and confirmed reports she was involved in an altercation during a warm-up game against Nigeria.
However former NBA champion and Olympics commentator Andrew Bogut believes mental health does not excuse the star’s behaviour.
‘Having mental health issues does not mean you cannot be criticised,’ he said.
Former NBA champion Andrew Bogut weighs in on Liz Cambage saga saying ‘mental health does not mean you cannot be criticised’
Opals star Liz Cambage has detailed her mental health struggles – including panic attacks – which saw her withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics
‘Poor behaviour and engaging in poor team culture can be a separate issue from mental health. Yes, ones behaviour can be erratic when facing a mental health battle, but this does not give you permission to behave in the way Liz reportedly has.’
Describing her as ‘one of the best players in the world’, Bogut claimed that mental health issues weren’t the sole reason for her sudden departure from the games.
‘I believe her withdrawal from the Olympics, in my opinion, is the repercussions of her behaviour.’ He said.
On Friday Cambage, 29, vanished from the Opals camp in Las Vegas with teammates and officials unable to locate her.
Early on Saturday morning she told fans she was at ‘breaking point’ and confirmed reports she was involved in an altercation during the Opals’ warm-up game against Nigeria.
But she slammed the ‘fake news and lies’ when addressing allegations she was partying in Las Vegas.
Cambage, 29, doesn’t feel she would cope living in a bubble away from family and friends in Tokyo for the Games – and has confirmed she won’t play in the Olympics
‘Here we go again… This decision has been a few days in the making but I’ve been at breaking point for a month or so now,’ she said.
‘But as soon as I put out that little statement yesterday and made the final decision, I felt a world of anxiety and pressure and heaviness I have been carrying lift straight off me.
‘I’m pretty annoyed at all the fake news and the lies I’m seeing floating around in news articles and being shown and being asked about.’
Cambage earlier explained to her fans that she was not in the right shape to play at her best at the Olympics and so was pulling out.
‘Every athlete competing at the Olympic Games should be at their mental and physical peak, and I am a long where from where I want and need to be,’ she said.
‘It’s no secret I have had my struggles with mental health in the past and living in a bubble without family and friends (in Tokyo) is honestly terrifying for me.
‘Relying on daily medication to control my anxiety is not the place I want to be right now.
‘It breaks my heart to withdraw from the Olympics, but I think it is the best decision for the Opals and myself right now.’
Cambage wished her Opals teammates ‘nothing but the best of luck in Tokyo’ and said she hopes they ‘go forth and win a gold medal’.
Earlier on Friday, it emerged the two-time Olympian was involved in a ‘physical altercation’ during a warm up match against Nigeria earlier this week, which resulted in an episode of verbal abuse.
Cambage’s erratic behaviour in Las Vegas this week infuriated teammates and team officials – before she announced she won’t be playing in Tokyo
Australian basketball star Liz Cambage has confirmed she won’t play in the Tokyo Olympics
The four-time WNBA All-Star reportedly also broke team protocols to socialise with friends in Nevada, where she has been a standout with local side Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA – an allegation she has since denied.
Additionally, team officials were believed to be investigating another possible incident, with Cambage on the verge of being axed from the squad before her withdrawal.
Cambage not playing in Tokyo is a significant blow for the Opals, as she is widely regarded as the team’s best player.
However, Sandy Brondello’s squad showed there is life in the squad after stunning Team USA 70-67 in an exhibition match on Saturday morning.
It was the first time in 11 years the Opals have lowered the colours of their illustrious teammates.
Rising star Ezi Magbegor, a WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm, stepped up to play the five spot in Cambage’s absence and impressed on court.
‘We have 11 other players on the team and I think we all knew we had to step up,’ Magbegor said post game.
‘Every game up until the Olympics is important, so we knew this was a good one to get out and get that chemistry back.
‘I think that is just the game we play. We knew we were down, but we still had the rest of the game to go, so that is what we focused on.
‘At halftime we reset the game and came out strong in the third quarter.’
Last month, Cambage accused Aussie basketball legend Andrew Bogut of lying and having a ‘f**king weird’ obsession with her.
The pair were caught up in an extraordinary Twitter spat over her complaints about a ‘whitewashed’ promotional photo for the Olympics.
Bogut was quick to downplay the public feud, but Cambage lashed out at her basketball counterpart on social media.
‘Wow. I do not have your number, I have literally never spoken to you away from a BA event. This obsession is just f**king weird. And my name still in your mouth… get a f**king life,’ she captioned a screenshot of Bogut’s comments.
After hearing Cambage withdrew from the Games citing mental health concerns, Bogut felt the decision was ‘deplorable.’
Bogut also retweeted a response to a tweet that blasted Cambage’s ’embarrassing’ behaviour.
Cambage initially threatened to boycott the Tokyo Olympics over a perceived lack of racial diversity in the Australian Olympic Committee’s promotional photos.
‘If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. How am I meant to represent a country that doesn’t even represent me?’ she wrote at the time.
‘If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times. HOW AM I MEANT TO REPRESENT A COUNTRY THAT DOESNT EVEN REPRESENT ME,’ Cambage wrote on social media with the hashtag ‘whitewashedaustralia’
Cambage, 29, threatened to ‘sit out’ this year’s event because there was not enough diversity in the promotional photo shoots (one pictured)
She later backflipped and confirmed she would play in her third Olympics – which now won’t happen.
‘For everyone wondering so desperately what my decision is for the Opals, I’m in baby… I’m in,’ she told fans in an Instagram video.
‘I’m going to play with my sisters that I’ve been playing with since I was a wee little thing and I’m going to ball out for all those young brown kids back in Australia watching me, baby. I’m going to do it for you.’
But the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist vowed to continue speaking out about the lack of racial diversity.
‘There are two people in this world there are the people who have the balls to stand up and say something and make change; that’s me. I was born for this,’ Cambage continued.
‘The second type of people in this world. that’s the people that are intimidated and scared and insecure and hide behind fake profiles and talk s**t because you are too scared to do anything.
‘I’m not going to stop for no one or nothing. Have a great day.’
Cambage initially threatened to boycott the Tokyo Olympics over a perceived lack of racial diversity in the Australian Olympic Committee’s promotional photos
Opals legend and three-time Olympian Michele Timms addressed the withdrawal of Cambage and said ‘enough is enough’.
‘Not what you want to read a few days before the Olympics,’ she wrote on Facebook.
Former Aussie basketball star Chris Anstey also addressed the news, saying when at her worst Cambage was ‘unbearable’.
‘At her best, Liz Cambage is one of the best couple of basketball players in the world,’ he said on SEN.
‘At her worst, she’s unbearable to be around as a teammate.’
Australian Olympic Committee chef de mission Ian Chesterman was disappointed about Cambage’s late withdrawal, but ‘respected her decision.’
‘Liz has made a great contribution to the Australian Olympic Team over two Olympic Games campaigns. We respect her decision and wish her the best in returning to full health,’ he said.
‘Our focus now moves to working with the Opals so they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves in Tokyo.
‘We know they are totally committed to achieving success in Tokyo and they will still bring an incredibly strong team to this campaign.’
Meanwhile, the news sparked a mixed reaction online with some supporting her decision and others admitting they are disappointed.
‘Credit to her for being open and honest about the hard reality of what an Olympic Games could be like for athletes,’ one said.
‘She has the potential to be one of the best in the world… what a waste,’ wrote another.
‘Some may say good riddance, but there is no denying that when she is focused, she is one of the best female basketballers on the planet,’ another tweeted.
Liz Cambage (centre) will be sorely missed by the Opals in Tokyo – she is regarded as the team’s best player
Australian Opals star Liz Cambage (pictured) will not be starring for the team in the Tokyo Olympics
In another move that sparked headlines, Cambage last year called for the Aboriginal flag to be included on team uniforms, and for Basketball Australia to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
When she told teammates she wasn’t feeling supported, they organised a boycott of team training to support her.
Cambage was also earlier accused of racism after she called a coach a ‘little white man’ in response to his disrespectful comment about her weight.
The WNBA All-Star, who plays for the Las Vegas Aces, hit back at Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller in an Instagram post in May after he encouraged an official to call a foul against her while saying: ‘C’mon, she’s 300 pounds.’
‘I will never let a man disrespect me, ever, ever, ever, especially a little white one,’ Cambage, 29, told her 580,000 followers in an explosive rant after the game.
‘Don’t ever try to disrespect me or another woman in the league.’
But some took to Twitter to condemn Cambage’s remarks as racist, some even calling them worse than his.
‘I like Liz Cambage, but she clapped back by calling him a ‘little white boy’?? That’s even ground for suspension if we’re playing this game,’ one critic, Rob Stukenborg, posted on Twitter.
Another Twitter user, Frankie, wrote: ‘So Liz Cambage can get mad at a man for bringing up her size in the heat of a game, but it’s okay for her to say that she will ‘never let a little white man’ disrespect her? What she said is worse lmaooo.’
Cambage has played professionally in China and Australia, in addition to the US. She is a four-time WNBA All-Star and in 2011, she was named MVP of the Australian league, the WNBL.
Cambage, a 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, vowed to continue speaking out about the lack of racial diversity