Unacceptable treatment of some swimmers dates back decades, Swimming Australia says. In a statement released on Saturday SA stated it was “deeply concerned and understands the gravity” of fresh claims of abuse within the sport after meeting with disgruntled Olympian Maddie Groves.
“We acknowledge some members of the swimming community have experienced unacceptable behaviour, some of this dates back decades,” the statement read.
At least six former elite swimmers will reportedly soon detail their experiences of abuse in the sport. SA said it was, as yet, unaware of the nature of those claims, stating: “Swimming Australia is deeply concerned and understands the gravity of such claims … we will always investigate any complaint with rigour”.
The swimmers will come forward amid a controversy sparked by dual Olympic silver medallist Groves in a series of explosive 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 SA president Kieren Perkins and chief executive officer Alex Baumann to detail her concerns. “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 trials, dual Olympic gold medallist 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.
“We have reaffirmed with the swimming community the various ways complaints can be dealt with at Swimming Australia, including several independent options.”
SA chief Baumann separately is performing a strategic review of SA’s operations.