As a follow-up to a story originally reported back in March of this year, the results of an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying and an overall ‘culture of fear’ cultivated by the coaching staff of British Para Swimming have now been released.
Revealed by British Swimming this week, the investigation found an ‘unnamed senior coach’ had used ‘abusive and derogatory’ language towards athletes’, including minors. British Paralympic Association (BPA) CEO Tim Hollingsworth stated that the investigation had revealed an ‘unacceptable’ environment. (The Guardian)
In a statement published in The Guardian, Chairman of British Swimming, Maurice Watkins, said, “On behalf of British Swimming I want to apologise to the British Para-Swimming athletes and their families who have faced unacceptable behaviours and comments. I have written to those athletes and their families I understand have been affected by this.
“In the pursuit of excellence, we recognise there have been failings in the culture and communication within British Para-Swimming. We are correcting that, recognising the need to ensure strong athlete welfare in our sport. British Swimming has in place a robust action plan, which follows a lengthy and detailed inquiry designed to make sure transparent procedures are followed and adhered to. These procedures are being widely communicated. We want to ensure a closer working relationship with the British Athletes Commission. Our goal continues to be medal-producing performances, consistent with medal targets, in a positive culture.”
Former Head Coach of British Para Swimming, Rob Greenwood, had already left his post, but his 2016 High Performance Coach of the Year award may now reportedly be retracted.
Upon hearing the findings, a British Paralympian, who wished to remain anonymous, told BBC Sport, “It’s good that it has now been recognised, but it also feels as if nothing has really happened. I don’t have much confidence things will really change.
She describes how para athletes were “screamed at” and “verbally abused and bullied” and “swimmers broken-hearted, crying their eyes out, and completely destroyed as a result of what had been said to them.
“These members of staff would talk down to the swimmers, make us feel pathetic and useless. We were traumatised and belittled. It began a year before Rio and carried on constantly,” she said.
“I didn’t suffer as much as some of the others. We won plenty of medals, but they took it too far. If we’d had less pressure and stress and targets, we’d have been happier and won even more.”