Australia

Swimming Australia hits back at media reports of mistreatment, saying it hasn’t been shown any evidence

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Swimming Australia (SA) has hit back at continued media reports suggesting more swimmers have come forward with allegations of mistreatment in the sport.

It follows a meeting on Friday between senior swimming officials and swimmer Maddie Groves, whose social media posts criticising the sport’s culture resulted in SA committing to the establishment of an all-female, independent review panel.

Ahead of that meeting it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that a further six athletes had come forward with complaints, although Swimming Australia has not received any formal detail of them, and no further information was put forward at the meeting with Groves and her lawyer.

“Swimming Australia is committed to creating a safe swimming environment for the entire swimming community; with a zero tolerance approach to any behaviour that threatens this,” SA said.

“Swimming Australia is deeply concerned and understands these are grave claims.

“Let us be clear: the allegations printed in the media over the past two days are claims that we have not been made aware of, including the nature or specifics of these allegations.

“Swimming Australia has not been asked to respond to allegations before they were printed or posted.”

SA did, however, acknowledge that there have been allegations of “unacceptable behaviour” for many years that it has worked to address.

“The work to address and remedy this has been ongoing. This work includes Swimming Australia being a participating institution in the National Redress Scheme and having developed and instituted a leading Safe Sport Framework.”

Media is often an avenue of last resort for athletes or others who have lost trust in their governing bodies to properly investigate allegations or complaints of abuse, although in this case Swimming Australia said in a short statement after meeting with Groves that it did “not receive any information from new complainants”.

SA is clearly frustrated that reports of mistreatment or abuse continue to be raised in the media, without detail or supporting evidence, and not through any of the channels it says are open to athletes with grievances.

“Swimming Australia has ethics and integrity processes in place, including independent avenues,” it said.

“We will always investigate any complaint with rigour.”

As reported by the ABC, the chair of the independent panel was due to be named on Friday but that was delayed as the meeting with Groves took precedence.

Swimming Australia said it spoke to parents and swimmers, inviting them to make submissions once the independent panel was established.

“Our Ethics and Integrity Committee is also undertaking due diligence on the National Integrity Framework.”

The National Integrity Framework is a government-backed process launched in early May, with sports invited to “opt in”.

“This is an option that has not been ruled out but needs the proper diligence, and this work has been taking place,” Swimming Australia said.

“While this due diligence is being completed, all serious complaints will be directed to an independent, external assessor.”

SA chief executive Alex Baumann has been in the job for six weeks.

In the week he was appointed he told The Ticket one of his first tasks was to establish a strategic sportwide review that will include scrutiny of current processes, including complaints reporting and handling.

That review will determine whether the changes to policies and processes, following a culture review in 2013 and changes to child welfare checks after the royal commission, are working as they should.

Swimming Australia director Tracy Stockwell and chief executive Alex Baumann at a media conference.
Alex Baumann (right) has arrived in the top job at a difficult time.(

ABC News

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“Swimming Australia runs a very strong wellbeing framework across our organisation, designed to support our athletes. This has been implemented over the past three years and is headed by Linley Frame and supported by Jodie Henry [former elite swimmers],” SA said.

“We have met with Maddie Groves and had productive discussions.

“We want to reaffirm Swimming Australia are determined Australians continue their love of swimming, whether it is at the squad level, at the grassroots or our elite athletes at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

“The most important thing we are working on right now is ensuring Australia has a safe swimming community.”

Allegations will need to be investigated thoroughly, but quickly, if Australia’s Olympic swimmers are to have clear air heading to Tokyo.

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