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AUSTRALIAN swimmer Maddie Groves has withdrawn from the upcoming Olympic trials following a series of social media posts condemning “misogynistic perverts” in the sport.
Groves didn’t detail her allegations, which initially surfaced last year, and Swimming Australia president Kieren Perkins said today that he was trying to contact the two-time Olympic silver medallist.
“We have had an ongoing dialogue that has been generated by Maddie through social media. We reached out with her in December 2020 to try to engage with her on these concerns she has,” Perkins told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “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.”
Groves, who won silver medals in the 200-metre butterfly and a relay at the 2016 Olympics, said she planned to delete her Twitter app after posting: “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.
She posted later on Instagram to say her decision to withdraw from Olympic selection was not based on a “singular incident.”
“It’s partly because there’s a pandemic on, but mostly it’s the culmination of years of witnessing and ‘benefiting’ from a culture that relies on people ignoring bad behaviour to thrive. I need a break.”
The Olympics, set to open on July 23, have already been postponed for 12 months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If starting this conversation will save 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 added.
Groves tweeted last year that she’d complained about a swimming worker and the way “they stare at me in my” swimsuit, and also expressed concerns about the anti-doping process and the treatment of athletes with long-term illnesses.
Perkins, a two-time Olympic 1,500-metre gold medallist, told ABC television that swimming in Australia was a “proud blended sport” and administrators had done a lot of work in recent years to build a framework to deal with any issues of abuse by making “sure that we have all the right processes for whistleblower investigations, and ensure police matters are dealt with as they need to be.
“There’s always going to be historical things that we need to acknowledge and work towards resolving,” Perkins said. “But I and everyone in our sport would certainly be quite challenged by the assertion that there’s a misogynistic culture.”
Veteran swimmer Mitch Larkin, who has been teammates with Groves, said the complaints “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 said in Adelaide, South Australia, where the Olympic trials start tomorrow. “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.”
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