Swimming Australia says bad treatment a decades-long issue


SYDNEY — Swimming Australia says unacceptable treatment of some swimmers is a decades-long problem amid media reports that six former elite athletes will soon make public their experiences of abuse in the sport.

Swimming Australia said in a statement Saturday that it is “deeply concerned and understands the gravity” of fresh claims of abuse within the sport after meeting with former Olympic swimmer Maddie Groves.

“We acknowledge some members of the swimming community have experienced unacceptable behavior, some of this dates back decades,” SA said.

The swimming association said it was unaware of the nature of the claims from the six swimmers.

Local media said the swimmers will come forward amid a controversy initiated by two-time Olympic silver medalist Groves in a series of social media posts. Groves withdrew from Australia’s Olympic swim trials which finished in Adelaide nine days ago, claiming there were “misogynistic perverts in sport.”

Groves on Friday met with Swimming Australia president Kieren Perkins and chief executive officer Alex Baumann to detail her concerns. Perkins and Baumann are both former Olympic gold medalists in swimming, Perkins for Australia and Baumann for Canada.

“We have met with Maddie Groves and had productive discussions,” SA said. “The most important thing we are working on right now is ensuring Australia has a safe swimming community.”

Groves’ claims prompted other reports of poor culture in the sport, including incidents of fat-shaming of female swimmers.

At the Australian trials, two-time Olympic gold medalist Emily Seebohm spoke of her mistreatment.

“A lot of people said that I wasn’t going to do it, I was too old, I needed to lose weight, I needed to look different,” Seebohm said after earning selection for her fourth Olympics at next month’s Tokyo Games.

SA has appealed to any concerned swimmers to come forward and will create an independent all-female panel to investigate any incidents of abuse.

“In the coming days, we’re due to announce the chair of the independent, female-led panel,” SA said. “We have proactively spoken to a number of parents and swimmers across various levels of swimming and invited them to make submissions to this new panel.”

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