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Swimming Australia vows change, apologises over abuse

FILE - Australia's Maddie Groves. Photo: AFP

FILE - Australia's Maddie Groves. Photo: AFP

Published Jan 21, 2022

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Melbourne - Swimming Australia looks set to ban skin-fold tests and the term ’physique’ while unreservedly apologising Friday for the way women have been treated in the sport.

The governing body also agreed to consider "never again selecting an all-male (coaching) team for national and international competitions" and to set up a taskforce to promote gender equality.

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They were among recommendations Friday from an independent panel established last year to investigate issues relating to women and girls.

The probe was triggered by Maddie Groves pulling out of trials for the Tokyo Olympics last year, citing a culture of misogyny in Australian swimming.

It sent shockwaves through the sport in the country and prompted other swimmers to come forward with claims of abuse, some dating back decades.

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Former elite swimmer Jenny McMahon, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist who is now an academic, subsequently said the sport had long suffered from a "degrading and abusive" culture, including "toxic" coaching habits.

Responding to the recommendations, Swimming Australia president Kieren Perkins said: "The board is committed to leading the organisation through this process of positive cultural change.

"They look forward to driving long-term change alongside the community including the athlete cohort, participants, parents, member organisations, stakeholders, coaches and staff."

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The review heard from more than 150 people including swimmers, coaches and administrators.

While the final report will remain secret to protect the anonymity of those involved, it made 46 wide-ranging recommendations.

They include banning skin-fold tests - a method used to determine body fat percentage - and introducing quotas to boost the number of women coaches.

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The report also said the term "physique" should not be used because it had "meaning and consequences, including over-valuing body shape and size".

Swimming Australia said it acknowledged that, "particularly for young female athletes, some of their experiences have had longer-term impacts".

"Swimming Australia again unreservedly apologises to those members of the swimming community who have had a negative experience," it added.

AFP

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Swimming

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