New claims prompt swimmers to front media
Australia's 4 x 100 men's swim team is to hold a press conference Friday to reveal explosive details of their conduct at the London Olympics.PT0M0S 620 349
The first stage of Australian swimming's mea culpa in the aftermath of this week's damning reports into the sport will take place on Friday afternoon - just hours after another swimmer revealed behaviour ‘‘so inappropriate it was not funny’’.
Members of the men's 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay team - consisting of James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, Matt Targett, Cameron McEvoy and Tommaso D'Orsogna - will front a press conference at which they are expected to reveal explosive details about their behaviour, including the use of prescription drugs, in the lead-up to the London Games.
Fellow Olympian Jade Neilsen has spoken out ahead of that press conference, detailing her teammates’ ‘‘inappropriate behaviour’’.
Australian swimmer Jade Neilsen on the pool deck at the London Olympics. Photo: Getty
Neilsen said she and an unnamed roommate were woken by late-night phone calls and door-knocking from James Magnussen, James Roberts and Cameron McEvoy while at a team staging camp in Manchester.
Neilsen said she and her roommate told coaches of the men’s strange behaviour, but were ignored.
‘‘I will confirm they were being inappropriate and it was towards [unnamed roommate] and I. I won’t specifically say [what happened],’’ she told News Limited.
In focus: Australia's men's relay swimmers - Cameron McEvoy, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, James Magnussen, Matt Targett and Tommaso D'Orsogna - before the London Olympics. Photo: Getty Images
‘‘It has sort of already come out, pretty much, what they’ve done. All I can say is their behaviour was completely inappropriate. It was so inappropriate it was not funny. That is all I can really say about that.’’
News Limited reported that Magnussen barged into Neilsen’s room with McEvoy, both wearing only jeans. Later, McEvoy reportedly returned with Roberts, who was wearing only underwear, and started banging on the door.
If sources are correct, it would be the first episode of naming and shaming following the reports that outlined a catalogue of problems within Swimming Australia and its Olympic campaign, including chronic mismanagement and favouritism, cases of bullying, abuse of prescription drugs, drunkenness and swimmers failing to remain in the stands to support teammates.
For the men's relay team, a team bonding session during a pre-Games camp in Manchester appears to have been one of the incidents that led the Bluestone report, compiled by Pippa Grange, to refer to a ''toxic'' culture within the Australian swimming team. There have been allegations that team members used Stilnox, which had been banned by the Australian team officials, and were involved in a series of childish incidents including making prank calls to female swimmers trying to sleep and banging on hotel-room doors throughout the night.
The six-man relay team will front the media to explain themselves.
D'Orsogna stirred up a hornets' nest last year when, in answering a question about whether Stilnox had been taken, he replied: ''I'm not going to be the guy that lies on media. I'm not going to be the guy that stands up here and lies to Australia. But, at the same time, I'm just not going to comment. I'll leave it at that.''
An Olympic team coach, who did not want to be named, told Fairfax Media on Thursday that the Stilnox episode did occur. The coach claimed D'Orsogna was the only member who did not take it.
''We were all young blokes once. The whole thing was probably meant as a passing on thing, but it was completely at the wrong time and certainly the wrong experience, having a Stilnox party,'' the coach said. ''I think what they did over there was just silly and stupid. Media and everyone likes to jump on it pretty bad, [but] Stilnox is no stranger over the years. The team doctor years ago was prescribing it to the swimmers.
''It affects people different ways. Some people use it responsibly and others don't and I think the modern group use it as a way to get funky. The thing was it was banned, everyone knew that and they went against that.''
The coach said despite reports on the behaviour of the relay team, ''it wasn't out of control or anything like that. They did that stupid thing and that was pretty much it''.
''All the relay coach [John Fowlie] wanted them to do was just to hang out together, bond together, have lunch together, just be there for one another up until the actual swim - nothing out of the normal,'' the coach said. ''But I think given the short time-frame they had, and they had a mix of young and old … they sort of got lost in what was trying to be achieved with that bonding together and they did the wrong thing.''
Meanwhile, former Australian rugby union chairman Peter McGrath will head a Swimming Australia integrity panel that will look to discipline athletes, coaches and staff in the wake of the damning reviews.
The panel will also investigate whether athletes, coaches and team officials complied with the signed team agreements.