Maddie Groves has launched another stinging criticism of Australia’s swimming culture, saying athletes must ignore bad behaviour to thrive.
And Groves says sparking controversy by claiming there are “misogynistic perverts” in the sport will be worthwhile if it prevents one girl from being told to lose weight.
As Australian swim team leaders reach out to her to seek the substance of the claims, Groves says her decision to withdraw from the Olympic selection trials wasn’t prompted by “one “singular incident”.
“My decision is partly because there is a pandemic on,” two-time Olympic silver medallist Groves posted on Instagram on Friday.
“But mostly it’s the culmination of years of witnessing and ‘benefitting’ from a culture that relies on people ignoring bad behaviour to thrive.
“I need a break.
“If starting the conversation will save even just one young girl from something like being told to lose weight or diet, not going to the Olympics will have been worth it.”
Groves’ latest comments came as Swimming Australia (SA) president Kieren Perkins tried to contact her about her claims, which Australian swim team leader Mitch Larkin said “broke my heart a little bit”.
“I certainly want to find out and get to the bottom of it if she does have some issues,” Larkin told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.
“We have got an athlete integrity officer and a wellbeing officer and she can certainly talk to them as well as sports psychs and really try and dig to the bottom of those issues.
“And if there is a culture issue, we would absolutely love to change it.”
Perkins said SA had yet to speak directly with Groves so the governing body could investigate her claims.
Groves’ comments on social media have caused a furore ahead of Australia’s selection trials for the Tokyo Olympics which start in Adelaide on Saturday.
Groves, who won silver medals in the 200m butterfly and 4x100m medley relay at the 2016 Olympics, has not made clear the target of her comments, which Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates described as concerning.
“I was very sorry to hear that and there’s no places for what she alleges in Australian sport,” Coates told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“We have been assured by Australian swimming that they’re looking at it again and that she hadn’t brought any complaints to them.”
Coates contacted Australia’s chef de mission at the 2016 Olympics, Kitty Chiller, to ascertain if Groves raised any issues at the Rio Games.
“It was never brought to her (Chiller’s) attention. And if there were allegations on an Olympic team, then we’d deal with it,” Coates said.
“But at the moment there doesn’t appear to be but we’ll be following it with interest.”
Larkin, a former training partner of Groves and a member of Australian swimming’s leadership group, was unsure of the origin of Groves’ comments.
“Her wellbeing, not only for herself but all athletes, is absolutely important to us as a leader of the Dolphins team,” he said.
“There’s plenty of people on the Dolphins team that are there to support her … if she ever wanted to reach out and express some concerns and take them a little bit further than fighting the fight herself.”