The men's 4 x 100 relay team missed out on a medal in London. Photo: Pat Scala
Swimming Australia will launch an investigation into the culture of the national swimming team after allegations surfaced of bullying, favouritism and disturbing pranks that undermined the team's morale as it prepared for the London Olympics, according to a report.
The Swimming Australia board will meet today to appoint a review panel as allegations emerged of behavioural issues, including pranks carried out during the team's training camp for the London Games, according to News Limited.
Team insiders told The Australian newspaper that senior members of the men's 4 x 100m freestyle relay team, favoured to win gold in London but which emerged without a medal, devised an "initiation ritual" that involved taking the controversial sleeping tablet Stilnox on a bonding night during the swimming team's preparation camp in Manchester.
Members of the relay team also reportedly upset their teammates and coaches at the camp on July 20 by knocking on their doors and making prank calls late at night.
Some members of the six-man relay team - consisting of Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Magnussen, James Roberts , Tommaso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy - also reportedly received special treatment and misbehaving members went unpunished, anonymous sources told the newspaper.
Several of the swimmers contacted by the newspaper admitted that they had misbehaved on the night, but none admitted to taking Stilnox, which was banned from the Australian Olympic team.
The Australian swimming team in London won just one gold medal, in the women's 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay, Australia's worst haul since 1992 in Barcelona, and the first time since the 1976 Montreal Games the nation has not won an individual gold medal.
Other disturbing allegations of ill-discipline among the team include claims that two male swimmers kept the body hair they shaved off before competition and scattered it in the beds and bags of other swimmers.
One of the youngest team members was allegedly bullied by older team members, while team morale was reportedly so low that some swimmers were pleased when the men's 4 x 100m relay team failed to win a medal.
Brenton Rickard, Olympic medallist and president of the Australian Swimmers Association, told The Australian that he had personally spoken to 90 per cent of the 44-member London team, and was "alarmed and disheartened by the feedback".
One anonymous international swimmer claimed that the team spirit had been deteriorating since 2009, attributing it to poor leadership from the Swimming Australia board and head coach Leigh Nugent.
Nugent refused to comment on the claims to the newspaper.
Swimming Australia and the Australian Swimmers Association have been contacted for comment.