An Olympic coach called young Australian swimmers ‘too fat’ as part of a campaign of bullying about their weight and labelled another hopeful a ‘loser’ and a ‘f**king idiot’, according to shock new claims.
Two active swimmers and two former athletes complained to Swimming Australia about the coach, who is facing four complaints over 20 years dating back to the 1990s.
One swimmer claimed she became anorexic and had to be taken to hospital after being body-shamed by the coach.
Swimming Australia investigated the claims but the coach was not disciplined and is working this week at the Olympic swimming trials in Adelaide.
This is the latest disturbing allegation since Commonwealth Games gold medallist and academic Dr Jenny McMahon lifted the lid on the ‘toxic and dysfunctional’ culture at the sport’s elite level.
Dr McMahon spoke out after top Australian swimmer Maddie Groves withdrew from qualifying for next month’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as she called out the ‘misogynistic perverts’ and their ‘boot lickers’ she says are running the sport.
Maddie Groves (pictured) has withdrawn from the Australian Olympic trials days out from the event as she called out the ‘misogynistic perverts’ within the sport. Allegations of fat-shaming dating back two decades have now been levelled against a coach training Australian swimming hopefuls
One swimmer also said she became bulimic – a potentially life-threatening eating disorder – after training with the unnamed coach, The Australian reported.
A friend of one of the swimmers who complained about the coach said his ‘aggressive behaviour’ and ‘freezing out’ of athletes was commonplace in the sport.
‘He screamed at the swimmer at a meet. It was outrageously unacceptable, it got Swimming Australia’s attention but Swimming Australia’s head coach at the time wanted nothing to do with it,’ they said.
‘Nothing was ever put through proper channels. No one wanted anything to do with it.
Dr Jenny McMahon (pictured) has spoken out about the culture in Australian swimming
‘That aggressive behaviour happens on the pool deck a lot, the yelling and screaming, the absolute freezing out happens all the time.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Swimming Australia for comment.
Dr McMahon on Monday lifted the lid about her findings from interviews with hundreds of swimmers and coaches over the past 14 years.
Female swimmers recalled horrific experiences of being ‘oinked’ at and dubbed ‘lard a****’ if perceived to be overweight while other young girls were told to get breast reductions.
The Swimming Australia board was due to meet on Monday to discuss the fresh allegations.
The latest allegations have overshadowed the current Olympic qualifying titles in Adelaide, where world and national records have been smashed.
The University of Tasmania researcher said there was no doubt ‘good coaches’ remain in the sport, but she described the culture in Australian swimming as patriarchal, male-dominated, and dysfunctional.
‘It looks like all smiles, gold medals and PBs to the outsider, but it leaves a trail of broken athletes and coaches when they do not conform and perform,’ Dr McMahon said.
Among her findings were claims an 11-year-old girl was forced on go on a 10km run after she was busted eating ice cream while another coach suggested a swimmer get a breast reduction because ‘your tits are too big’.
Groves pulled out of the Olympic qualifiers last week in protest of who she dubbed the ‘misogynistic perverts’ running the sport
The toxic culture of the sport goes back at least as far as the 1990s when Dr McMahon was an elite swimmer, winning one gold and two silver medals at the Commonwealth Games.
‘[I was subjected to] body ridicule, daily weigh ins… I was left broken when I finished swimming,’ Dr McMahon said.
She says she suffered mental health issues, eating disorders and later drug addiction as the result of harsh coaching practices she endured.
Dr McMahon described the sport’s reporting system as broken and claimed she was told by swimmers they had to make a report with their abuser – often their own coach – present.
She called for the Australian Human Rights Commission to oversee an independent review of the sport.
‘It is very narrow-minded to think it is just about women, women’s health and body shaming. This is about systemic and cultural issues in swimming,’ Dr McMahon said
Australian swimmer Maddie Groves (pictured) pulled out of the Olympic qualifiers last week in protest of who she dubbed the ‘misogynistic perverts’ running the sport
Grant Hackett (pictured), 40, has weighed in on the ‘toxic and dysfunctional’ culture of Australia’s elite swimming program, demanding abusive coaches be ‘weeded out’ of the sport
Grant Hackett has weighed in on the ‘toxic and dysfunctional’ culture of the sport, demanding abusive coaches be ‘weeded out’.
The Australian swimming legend, who won gold at two Olympics, said he was horrified when former competitive swimmers lifted the lid on the abuse – which left athletes psychologically damaged after years of humiliating abuse.
‘The people that are partaking in this behaviour need to be weeded out,’ Hackett told the Today show on Monday morning.
‘We need to get rid of these people and move the sport forward.’
Hackett went on to say the allegations had shocked him and insisted that he had a positive experience as a rising athlete back in the early 2000s.
‘To hear these accusations is very, very disappointing,’ he said.
The 40-year-old former athlete welcomed an investigation into the allegations and said he had no doubt it would result in abusers being dealt with accordingly.
Hackett (pictured with his wife Sharlene) went on to say the allegations had shocked him and insisted that he had a positive experience as a rising athlete back in the early 2000s
‘There are so many great people within the sport and we’re seeing so many great performances over the last few days,’ Hackett said.
‘We need to make sure that none of this stuff takes place because it’s just so disappointing.’
Hackett is considered one of Australia’s most successful swimmers, setting 15 world records, winning a total of seven medals at three Olympic games between 2000 and 2008 and 10 gold medals at World Championship games.
Groves, who claimed the sport is run by misogynists, says she felt ‘supported’ in her decision to quit and vowed to return to racing later in 2021.
‘You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus,’ she wrote.
‘Make them pervs quake in fear from the number of people supporting a statement that threatens their existence.’
Dr Jenny McMahon (pictured swimming for Australia) competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games
Groves (pictured), who claimed the sport is run by misogynists, says she felt ‘supported’ in her decision to quit and vowed to return to racing later in 2021
Groves, winner of two Olympic silver medals at the 2016 Games in Rio as well as two Commonwealth golds, announced on Wednesday she would not swim at the Olympic trials in Adelaide, due to begin this weekend.
The 26-year-old then unleashed on the Australian swimming community and in particular those in charge in a series of blistering social media posts on Thursday.
‘Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers,’ her furious post said on Thursday morning.
Groves was due to compete in the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle events at the trials in Adelaide, which began on Saturday.
Maddie Groves poses on the podium during the Women’s 200m Butterfly medal ceremony at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre in 2014 after winning a bronze medal
Swimming Australia president Kieren Perkins later claimed the sporting body had tried without success to contact Groves about the complaints she first aired on social media in November 2020.
‘We’ve reached out to her since December 2020 to try and engage her on these concerns that she has,’ Perkins said on Friday.
‘We’ve done it again now and unfortunately at this point, we’ve not been able to have a direct conversation with Maddie to understand what her concerns are, who the people involved are, so we can investigate and deal with it.
‘We certainly encourage her to do that because this is one of the most significant issues and challenges that we and all sports have, to make sure our athletes are well supported and protected in their environment.
‘Unfortunately we’ve just not been able to do that because Maddie has not engaged with us directly yet.’
Swimming Australia statement in response to Maddie Groves’ claims
Swimming Australia has been consciously working on issues of institutional concern for the past decade.
Our focus is what we do today and in the future to ensure safe elite performance.
We are committed to the work of a solutions-based framework for Swimming Australia’s future.
This is ongoing and daily work.
Integrity and care are vital to our sporting success, we recognise this and it forms the foundation for our actions as an organisation.
Our Board of Directors is committed to the wellbeing of our swimmers and to the work it takes to create an environment of success and safety.
Our new CEO Alex Baumann has proactively begun a strategic structural review of Swimming Australia, five weeks into this role. Our Board will meet at the end of the month to have this strategy session. In addition to this planning, our Ethics and Integrity Committee of the Board will be closely examining all matters relating to issues raised this week.
This is a crucial week ahead of us, we know though these issues are too important to ignore. They need to be addressed here and now. We are committed to keeping our people safe and well.
We have taken the following steps to further our work – and have instigated these steps this morning.
We will prioritise our current work across our integrity program. We will work with an independent female panel to investigate ongoing issues related to women and girls’ experience and advancement in our sport. Their focus will be on our future.
Our board director Tracy Stockwell will help establish this process. She has significant personal elite athlete experience and organisational experience with Swimming Australia.