A top Venezuelan cross country skier has escaped conviction and apologised for punching the landlord of his country's Canberra embassy in a fit of patriotic rage.
César Augusto Baena Sierraalta 30, had told police he believed his country had been disrespected and its sovereignty violated after the landlord blockaded the O'Malley embassy over an unpaid rental bill.
He pleaded guilty last month to common assault and was handed an 18-month good behaviour order when he faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday.
Baena was arrested during a three-month stay at the embassy while he competed in ski competitions in Australia.
Speaking outside court, Baena said he accepted his actions were wrong and he was sorry. "This is not the way I am. I was very under duress at that moment."
"It's not something to be done as a public figure."
Court documents said the landlord, 71, had leased the property to the Venezuelan government to be used as the nation's embassy for the past 18 years.
Baena and the landlord had argued over the blockade, which prevented access to the building by staff and members of the public.
The landlord turned to walk to his car when Baena dealt a blow to his face that caused the victim to fall to the ground.
Baena then fled and police found him in nearby parkland.
Court documents said Baena expressed remorse and told police he felt the blockade had insulted Venezuela and violated its sovereignty.
He had become enraged when the landlord had refused access to the embassy and punched him out of anger that Venezuela had been "disrespected".
Defence lawyer Charlene Harris on Friday urged the court not to record a conviction as it could make it difficult for Baena to compete internationally. Prosecutors opposed the non-conviction order due to the seriousness of the offence.
In his evidence, Baena said he asked the landlord to move the "for the dignity of my country" and the man had taunted him by saying: "You're not going to get what you want."
"It makes me feel hurt to my heart for my country," Baena said. "I feel like soldier to my country."
His comments prompted Magistrate Peter Morrison to question: "How do these grandiose things of which you speak matter to you?"
Baena replied: "It was an honour hit to my heart."
He said he regretted his actions and hadn't been in control "of his own will" at the time. He admitted he did not call the police.
"I know what I did was not the right thing."
Baena said he had competed in more than 100 races in 45 countries and hoped to compete in the Olympics.
He feared a criminal conviction would put an end to his 12-year career.
Mr Morrison noted the assault took place against a backdrop of "heightened emotions" and was not premeditated.
"It seems to me he was not personally affected by the presence of the blockade. He says that he felt a sense of affront at the insult directed towards his country."
He noted a conviction could disrupt Baena's travel plans and have, in the defendant's eyes, "catastrophic" consequences for his career. But he said the offence was serious.
"It certainly could not be be described as minor offending in any case."
Mr Morrison said he would not record a conviction and said the good behaviour order would not be "a hollow exercise" given Baena planned to return to Australia next year.
Venezuela's consular activities in Australia were briefly shelved last month when the diplomatic mission was evicted from its embassy in the dispute over a rental bill said to be in the tens of thousands. It it not known if the bill has been settled.
The mission has since moved to Keyar Street.