Australian swimming great Grant Hackett demanded on Monday that abusive coaches be banned after complaints about “misogynistic perverts” and as new claims of “degrading” conduct emerged.
The former Olympic champion called the allegations shocking and said the sooner those at fault were “weeded out” the better. “We need to be supporting young girls, we need to be supporting young boys that are in the sport and progressing,” Hackett, considered one of the greatest distance swimmers ever, told Channel Nine. “And we need to make sure that none of this stuff takes place because it is extremely disappointing to hear it.” Swimming Australia has pledged to set up an independent female panel to investigate after complaints last week about “misogynistic perverts” by dual Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves.
The target of her comments was not clear, but Groves pulled out of the ongoing Australian Olympic swimming trials. Former elite swimmer Jenny McMahon, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist who is now a senior academic at the University of Tasmania, on Monday claimed the sport had long suffered from a “degrading and abusive” culture. She said she had spent 14 years interviewing hundreds of swimmers and coaches, uncovering a pattern of “toxic” coaching habits.
McMahon told The Australian newspaper of young female swimmers being “oinked at”, told to get “boob reductions” and dubbed “lard arses”. “It’s a patriarchal, male-dominated culture, with a guru fixation –- it’s dysfunctional,” she said. “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.”
Hackett, who won the 1,500 metres freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney Olympics and in Athens four years later, said it was disturbing to hear. “The people that are partaking in that sort of behaviour, they need to be weeded out of the sport. We need to get rid of those people and we need to be progressing this sport forward,” he said. But he added that he believed it was only a “few people” and overall “you’ve got a very positive culture, you’ve got a very supportive culture”.
Swimming Australia said all allegations were taken seriously. “As we have said before, these allegations are concerning and we want to provide the best environment for our athletes,” it said in a statement Monday. “We have a clear process in place and are working on the formation of the independent female panel that will investigate ongoing issues related to our swimmer’s experiences. “We are committed to continuing to operate in the best interests of our athletes and the sport.”