Australian swimming has been stunned by a host of fresh allegations of abuse within the sport, from coaches ‘oinking’ at swimmers, to female swimmers being told they’re “getting a lard arse”, or another who was told to “get a boob reduction”.
The allegations of a “degrading and abusive” culture comes after former Olympic medallist Maddie Groves announced her withdrawal from Australia’s Olympic selection trials, citing “misogynistic perverts” in the sport.
Now a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist turned academic, Dr Jenny McMahon (OAM), has detailed a range of sickening stories from Australian swimmers and coaches across over a decade.
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Dr McMahon shared her research with The Australian on Monday, having interviewed hundreds of elite swimmers and coaches in the last 14 years.
Incidents detailed by Dr McMahon include an 11-year-old forced to run 10km as punishment after a coach saw her eating ice cream; coaches making ‘oinking’ or pig noises at swimmers in reference to their weight; female swimmers being told they were “getting a lard arse”; and one swimmer being told by a coach to “get a boob reduction because your tits are too big”.
Dr McMahon’s findings also include widespread body shaming and destructive training regimes, and that many victims develop eating disorders, other mental health issues, as well drug and alcohol abuse.
Dr McMahon said: “It looks like all smiles, gold medals and PBs to the outsider, but it leaves a trail of broken athletes and coaches when they do not conform and perform.”
Many swimmers, she found, also opt not to report abuse to Swimming Australia due to a lack of faith in the organisation’s procedures – and also that some who had reported concerns had been ‘ostracised’.
The Australian also shared the below photo of a male teenage swimmer at a recent elite Australian training session. The swimmer was forced to wear a girl’s swimsuit as punishment for underperforming.
“The boy did not achieve the time he was asked to do in training and the coach demanded he get out of the pool and put a pair of female bathers on, because he was ‘training like a girl’, in front of the rest of the squad and for the remainder of the session,” an anonymous parent of one swimmer told The Australian.
“It was a humiliating experience for him while other swimmers, some of whom are Olympians, looked on and giggled.”
The coach is currently working at the Australian Olympic selection trials, per the report, and has represented Australia as a team coach multiple times.
Dr McMahon also opened up on her personal journey, saying she suffered depression, drug addiction and eating disorders after being psychologically abused and bullied by coaches.
Swimming Australia is forming an “independent female panel” to be led by board director Tracy Stockwell, a three-time US Olympic gold medal winner.
The review has already come under fire for its stated aim of investigating the treatment of “women and girls” – rather than systemic and widespread issues of a toxic culture.