Truth emerges about photo at centre of Aussie swimming furore

·Sports Editor
·4-min read
A file photo of a swimming pool with lanes marked.
Swimming Australia has responded to the disturbing claims. Image: Getty

Swimming Australia has responded to claims a young male swimmer was forced to wear a female swimming costume as punishment, saying the athlete chose to wear the costume himself.

The photo was published on Monday amid "concerning" fresh details of an abusive culture in the sport in Australia.

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Media reports claimed the male swimmer was made to wear the female costume at an elite Australian squad training session as a punishment for swimming too slow.

A parent sent the photo to The Australian to call out the “humiliating practice”.

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“I have heard of things like this happening before and just could not believe it when it unfolded in front of me,” the unnamed parent said.

“The swimmers did not seem shocked at all, and I wonder whether this is normal in their squad. I took the photograph because I just knew that without it, no one would believe me.”

However the boy's mother and Swimming Australia have since refuted the claims he was forced to wear the female costume, saying he did so of his own free will.

"Swimming Australia has investigated the circumstances surrounding the image," they said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The swimmer was photographed wearing a swimsuit that was gifted to him as a Christmas present.

"This changing of swimsuits was not a form of shame or punitive action, as confirmed by the parties involved."

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Shocking claims of abuse within Australian swimming

Swimming Australia's ethics and integrity committee is set to meet on Monday as the fallout continues from Maddie Groves' accusations of misogyny at elite levels.

Groves withdrew from Australia's Olympic trials in Adelaide last week and claimed there were "misogynistic perverts in the sport".

Swimming Australia is creating an independent all-female panel to examine Groves' claims and reports of wider degrading coaching practices.

Swimming Australia's ethics and integrity committee will meet on Monday to hold its own investigation into the furore surrounding the sport.

"Any allegations of misconduct are taken seriously by Swimming Australia," the governing body said in a statement on Monday.

"As part of our ongoing work, our ethics and integrity committee will be meeting today and working on this path forward and the board will be meeting tomorrow.

"As we have said before, these allegations are concerning and we want to provide the best environment for our athletes."

"We are committed to continuing to operate in the best interests of our athletes and the sport."

The statement followed a News Corp report detailing incidents including swimmers being "oinked at" and fat-shamed.

Maddie Groves, pictured here at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Maddie Groves claimed there are 'misogynistic perverts' within Australian swimming. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The reports centred on research by former Commonwealth Games swimming gold medallist Jenny McMahon.

McMahon, now a senior academic at the University of Tasmania, interviewed hundreds of elite swimmers and coaches from 2007, finding widespread "toxic coaching" habits had left both men and women psychologically damaged.

"It's a patriarchal, male-dominated culture, with a guru-fixation - it's dysfunctional," Dr McMahon told News Corp.

"It looks like all smiles, gold medals and PBs (personal bests) to the outsider, but it leaves a trail of broken athletes and coaches when they do not conform and perform."

McMahon called on the Australian Human Rights Commission, which recently investigated similar claims in gymnastics, to probe the swimming claims.

McMahon detailed incidents including coaches making pig noises at swimmers if they were perceived to be overweight.

Other incidents allegedly included a coach ordering an 11-year-old female swimmer on a 10km run as punishment for eating an ice cream.

McMahon also said female swimmers had been told they were "getting a lard arse" while one coach told a swimmer to "get a boob reduction because your tits are too big", according to News Corp.

with AAP

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