Australia’s under-fire men’s swimmers must focus on their sport and not act as “celebrity show ponies”, former Olympic champion Kieren Perkins said on Thursday.
The two-time Olympic 1,500m freestyle gold medallist believes Australian swimming has not been irrevocably damaged by the revelations of athletes abusing prescription drugs, alcohol and curfews during last year’s London Games.
But the findings of a damning review into Australia’s Olympic swimming team should act as the catalyst for a greater emphasis on performance, he said.
“The guys who are involved in the team now need to take on board the lessons,” Perkins told reporters.
“Grow up a little bit and get on with the job that they’re there to do, which is to be the world’s best athletes, not celebrity show ponies.”
Perkins, a gold medallist in 1992 and 1996, assisted in the review along with fellow former swimmers Petria Thomas and Tim Ford.
He said former head swim coach Leigh Nugent, who quit the job last month following the review’s release, was let down by flawed structures within the sport.
Whoever takes over from him will need to have a different culture and support structure behind them, Perkins said.
“It’s imperative that the sport makes sure the high performance structure they put in place, and whoever the head coach is, has got the right mandate and support to get the job done,” he said.
The review into the sport’s high performance programme found failings in strategic planning and lack of transparency in decision-making, which fuelled disillusionment.
Australia’s swimmers won just one gold medal, six silver and three bronze in London – their lowest tally in the pool since 1992 in Barcelona.
Perkins said the review’s findings and revelations should not overshadow this month’s world championship trials in Adelaide.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to get it right and that’s where the conversation has to be from now on,” he said.