Report slams 'toxic' culture in Australian Olympic swim team

Feb 19, 2013

Inquest into London Games failure reveals drunkenness, bullying and prescription drug use

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Libby Trickett and Stephanie Rice from Australian Swimming Team at the London 2012 Olympics

THE FAILURE of Australia's much-vaunted swimming team at the 2012 London Olympics has been put down to a "toxic" culture within the squad that led to indiscipline, bullying and the misuse of prescription drugs, according to a damning report.

It was the Australian swim squad's worst Olympic performance for 20 years. They managed only one gold, in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay.

An investigation into what went wrong was ordered and the Sydney Morning Herald says its "warts-and-all review" reveals "a grim picture of the hierarchy of Swimming Australia and the unit that competed at the Games".

The report's author Dr Pippa Grange claimed the team was undermined by a series of "culturally toxic incidents" and a "lack of collective leadership".

She said the team had been undermined by cases of "getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying". Athletes were left isolated and for many it was a "lonely Olympics", she added.

"At its least attractive, the team dynamic became like a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence," she said, noting there was no sports psychologist with the squad.

There was controversy before the Games when one of the Australian team's most high-profile swimmers, Stephanie Rice, posted pictures of herself posing in a skimpy bikini on Twitter. There were also claims that the men's relay team devised an initiation ritual involving sleeping pills.

The report is one of two looking at how the "grossly mismanaged national swim team" was run, explains the SMH. It adds that the Australian Olympic Committee could now take action against some swimmers, and those who breached the team rules face losing their prize money.

The Australian team as a whole endured a miserable Olympics, finishing in tenth place in the medals table. The decline of the swimming team has been seen as indicative of Australian sport's fall from grace since the triumphant Sydney Games of 2000.

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