Swimming Australia has called on Olympic silver medallist Maddie Groves to come forward with more details of her concerns about an unnamed person working in the sport, after her decision to quit this weekend’s Olympic trials.
SA president Kieren Perkins told the ABC Groves’s allegations were “very concerning” to the organisation.
“We have had an ongoing dialogue that has been generated by Maddie through social media, we reached out with her in September 2020 to try to engage with her on these concerns she has,” Perkins said.
“We have done it again now, and unfortunately at this point we have not been able to have a direct conversation with Maddie to understand exactly what her concerns are, who the people involved are, so that we can investigate it and deal with it.
“We certainly encourage you to do that because this is one of the most significant issues and challenges that we [have].
“All sports have to make sure their athletes are well supported and protected in their environment, and unfortunately we have just not been able to do that, because Maddie hasn’t engaged with us directly yet.”
Groves, a dual silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, announced her withdrawal from the trials on Instagram on Wednesday night.
The trials begin in Adelaide on Saturday.
Groves followed up her announcement on Thursday morning on Twitter, saying she would not stand for female swimmers being exploited.
“Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their bootlickers,” Groves tweeted.
“You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus.
In a follow-up tweet, Groves said she was deleting her social media app “for the moment”.
Swimmers send support to Groves
In Adelaide preparing for the trials, fellow Australian Olympian and former training partner Mitch Larkin said Groves’ messages “broke his heart”.
“I trained with Maddie for a number of years, through 2012 and obviously through 2016 where she picked up silver as well, so we do have a pretty close connection and her wellbeing – not only herself but all athletes – is absolutely important to us as a leader of the Dolphins team,” Larkin said.
“I might send her a little text and check on how she’s going, but I know at Swimming Australia we’ve worked on the importance of having some really good structure and there are plenty of people on the Dolphins team that are there to support her.
“That [her posts] sort of broke my heart a little bit, obviously in 2012 it was pretty well documented that the culture of the team wasn’t as great as it should be, and for me that wasn’t a personal experience, that was from other people’s stories.
“Hearing her tweet and her messages as well, I’m not exactly sure her story, but you know it was more about sort of being a female.
“Being a male, you know, I’ve never personally experienced some of those things she was talking about, but I certainly want to find out and get to the bottom of it if she does have some issues.”
Paralympian Lakeisha Patterson said it was unfortunate Groves was not able to be there to compete, and that it was a “tough situation”.
“I personally don’t understand what she’s facing but obviously we wish everybody could be here and unfortunately we’re not able to,” she said.
“In terms of Maddie I’m not 100 per cent sure with her story but if anybody has any complaints I would urge them to contact Swimming Australia,” Patterson said.
Federal Social Services Minister Anne Ruston has urged SA to get to the bottom of allegations of misogyny within the sport.
Senator Ruston said people deserved to feel comfortable at work.
“Every single one of us needs to be respected in our workplace, and this is Maddie’s workplace, and she had the right to be respected.”