With the Olympics just around the corner, now is the time where athletes tend to focus on their chosen discipline with great intensity. But in the world of swimming, the allure of Tokyo has been replaced instead with staggering allegations of abuse within the sport, from coaches ‘oinking’ at swimmers, to female swimmers being told they’re “getting a lard arse” or need a “boob reduction.”
The allegations of degrading and abusive culture come after former Olympic medalist Maddie Groves took to social media to announce that she would take herself out of competition for the Olympic selection trials here in Australia, using her platform instead to call out the “misogynistic perverts” in the sport. Since making the claims on her social media, Groves has found great support from others within the sport who have championed her courageous stance, while others have come forward with their own stories of abuse within the sport.
As Fox Sports reports, former Commonwealth Games gold medallist turned academic, Dr Jenny McMahon, detailed a range of sickening stories from Australian swimmers and coaches across a decade, which 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” and countless others. McMahon suggests that the body shaming is so widespread and founded on destructive training regimes, that many victims develop eating disorders as a result.
As McMahon detailed to The Australian, “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.”
Now, Swimming Australia will undergo an investigation into the alleged “misogynistic” culture within The Australian Olympic swimming community. A representative for the national swimming organisation said the organisation is “consciously working on issues of institutional concern for the past decade” and will closely examine the issues raised by Groves. “We will work with an independent female panel to investigate ongoing issues related to women and girls’ experience and advancement in our sport,” they added.
Since Groves made the allegations, those within swimming have been quick to offer their support. Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones urged Swimming Australia to take the issue “very, very seriously” in the hope that they can look to clean up the sport and make it a safer environment, particularly for women and girls. In an interview with ABC’s Offsiders, Jones said Swimming Australia needed to do their due diligence, explaining: “We’ve got to remember that the athletes come first they are the most important thing, and in swimming particularly the females can be quite young.”
She added, “I made my first Olympic team when I was 14 so that’s a pretty young woman to be coming through and to be learning. We’ve got very influential and very big names in our sport and very influential coaches so we need to make sure that we have the right people in there.”
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