Awash with allegations, Swimming board calls urgent meeting

Swimming Australia’s board will meet urgently as Olympic stars try to ignore a widening culture controversy in the sport.

Jun 15, 2021, updated Jun 15, 2021
Queensland's Ariarne Titmus has ignored the controversy to storm her way into contention for the Tokyo Olympics (Pic: Swimming Australia).

Queensland's Ariarne Titmus has ignored the controversy to storm her way into contention for the Tokyo Olympics (Pic: Swimming Australia).

SA’s board will convene on Tuesday, a day after the governing body’s ethics and integrity committee also met to discuss claims of a sexist culture in swimming.

The furore was triggered by Queensland Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves, who claimed on social media there were “misogynistic perverts in the sport” when announcing her withdrawal from Australia’s Olympic selection trials in Adelaide.

SA will form an independent all-female panel to investigate Groves’ claims and any wider issues of culture problems in elite swimming.

But Groves is still yet to respond to calls and emails from SA hierarchy.

The governing body has urged any swimmer with concerns to come forward.

Olympic gold-medal prospects Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown are among swimmers at the Adelaide trials shuttering themselves from the controversy.

“I have heard little whispers but for me personally, I have never experienced any of that,” Titmus said.

“And anything a coach says to me about my physique or race weight or whatever is for performance purposes only.

“I have never experienced fat-shaming as such that is talked about in the media at the moment.”

McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday night, said she was avoiding the controversy.

“I keep in my own little bubble, I don’t like the whole outside distractions,” she said.

“If people feel that way, that is on them and that’s their opinions.

“But I just … try and ignore any shame comments or anything like that – no negativity.”

SA chief executive Alex Baumann has said the independent panel would soon be formed to investigate any claims of abuse.

Asked on Sunday if the nation’s elite swim program had systemic problems regarding treatment of female swimmers, he replied: “I don’t think we do.

“But this is what we are setting up to really try to find, so we’re setting up this panel to exactly take a look at that.”

SA had no record of any previous complaint from Groves.

Groves last November posted on Twitter: “I definitely made a complaint a few years ago about a person that works at swimming making me feel uncomfortable the way they stare at me in my togs”.

Groves, on Instagram on Wednesday, announced her withdrawal from the trials.

The dual silver medallist from the 2016 Olympics went further on Twitter on Thursday, posting: “Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers.

“You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight … Time’s UP.”

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