Review details ‘toxic’ environment in Aussie Olympic swim team

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 11:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 1:22pm

A review into the Australian swimming team’s performance at the London Olympics has detailed a “toxic” environment including misuse of prescription drugs and bullying.

Australia’s only swimming gold medal at the London last year Games was in the women’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay, with the high-profile men’s relay and world champion James Magnussen failing to deliver on the expectations from a country which prides itself on his performances in the Olympic pool. Australia won 10 swimming medals overall, including six silver and three bronze.

It was Australia’s worst Olympic swimming performance in two decades.

The problem-plagued squad has been the subject of two reviews, including the Bluestone Review released on Tuesday which outlined the “culturally toxic incidents” and the “lack of collective leadership” in response.

The independent review noted cases of “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying”.

“Situations were left to bleed,” the report said, adding that swimmers felt alone and alienated and described their London experience as the “lonely Olympics.”

The swim team entered the London Games amid reports of pranks at a lead-in camp, with allegations that senior members of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay team devised an initiation ritual involving taking the prescription sleeping pill Stillnox on a bonding night.

The review recommended creating an ethical framework for Australian swimming, among other recommendations for multifaced leadership development of athletes and coaches.

“Before we look at winning gold medals, we want to win back the admiration of the nation, and we want to engage with our swimming community like never before at every level,” Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold said in a statement. “It has been a time of reflection and review and a time to be honest and open about how we can make the right steps towards future success.”

Swimming Australia said it would implement a 100-day plan to address the recommendations of both reviews.

“The underlying message from these two reviews is that we all have to be accountable for the future success of swimming in Australia and that starts with discipline and setting the right standards of behaviour from the top down,” Nettlefold said.