Swimming Australia’s boss says the organisation “could have done better” in handling sexism complaints while admitting deep concern at the tarnishing of the sport.
SA chief executive officer Alex Baumann says the governing body’s complaints process could have been better explained to swimmers.
“We could have done better,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
But Baumann refused to say if there were any current investigations, citing confidentiality within the complaints process.
“We are not going to comment on any individual cases,” he said.
“Ultimately we have a confidential process and we have to maintain the integrity of that.”
But most swimmers were unaware there were confidential avenues to lodge complaints, which Baumann said was an oversight.
“What I think has happened is we haven’t communicated effectively,” Baumann said.
” … I don’t think people know what they have to do – and we admit that.
“That is what we’re trying to address right now. Ultimately they don’t have to necessarily come to Swimming Australia.”
Australia’s Olympic selection trials have been overshadowed by claims of sexism and abusive culture in elite swimming.
The furore was triggered by dual Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves claiming on social media there were “misogynistic perverts in the sport”, which prompted further separate allegations of fat-shaming and abuse of elite swimmers.
“Obviously I am quite worried,” Baumann said.
“We have had some fantastic performances in the pool but our reputation is getting tarnished.
” … It’s always important for me to ensure that we have a strong reputation that is in line with our performances.”
Baumann said Groves had yet to return calls or emails from SA hierarchy.
SA’s board met on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, after the governing body’s ethics and integrity committee convened on Monday.
SA has pledged to create an independent all-female panel to investigate Groves’ claims and wider cultural issues.
SA director Tracy Stockwell said that panel would be formed as soon as possible, with potential members already canvassed.
“We are listening to what the allegations are and have empathy for those athletes and for all of our swimmers,” Stockwell told reporters.
“And this is one of the reasons why we are having this independent panel – to look into what is the extent, how can we make it better and acknowledge those athletes.”
SA has urged any swimmer with complaints to come forward but most at the Olympic selections trials are shuttering themselves from the controversy, including gold-medal prospects Ariarne Titmus and Kaylee McKeown.
“I have heard little whispers but for me personally, I have never experienced any of that,” Titmus said.
“And anything a coach says to me about my physique or race weight or whatever is for performance purposes only.
“I I have never experienced fat-shaming as such that is talked about in the media at the moment.”
McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday night, said she was keeping “in my own little bubble”.
“If people feel that way (abused), that is on them and that’s their opinions,” she said.
“I just … try and ignore any shame comments or anything like that – no negativity.”