British Swimming Apologizes For ‘Culture Of Fear’ Within Para Swimming

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.”


  1. P-Diddy says:

    really awful story. britain winning medals at a heavy cost to welfare. the coach has hopefully been struck off

    • Swimmer says:

      I hope he never coaches (or is otherwise allowed to work in a position of power which he could potentially abuse) again. He might have conveniently left before they could fire him, but this can’t go unpunished. Disgusting.

  2. Skoorbnagol says:

    Chris Fuber NPD was aware and has kept his job, his name has come out in the Times newspaper today.
    Disgusting should be man enough to resign.

    • Mark says:

      Anyone who supports a man who knew of these actions against any athletes needs to take a good long look in the mirror so who ever disliked this post is as guilty as those who perpetrated the bullying

  3. Mark says:

    Steph milward claimed to be bullied so maybe this could be the start of a mass clean out of the corruption in GB swimming.
    And I hope this along with the manipulation of classification by swimmers will be brought up during the parliamentary committee hearing at the end of this month

    • Jonny_B says:

      Are you suggesting swimmers manipulate the classification process?

      • Mark says:

        I have proof they do and have to help gain a better chance of winning medals.
        From being told to take cold showers too 2hr sessions before being seen by classifiers and claiming they have disabilities without medical evidence.
        And GB and Australia are leading the way when it comes to cheating the system, if you take a very good look at the female S8 and S9 swimmers you will find performances that begger belief and I even have copies of IPC classifiers personal e mails confirming they have helped swimmers cheat the system.

        • Jonny_B says:

          In which case, the athletes themselves have a lot to answer for. Not only the coaches…

        • estee123 says:

          Why are you using this dreadful business to harp on about classification again. Have some respect for these athletes who have been through such a terrible experience and risked everything by being brace enough to speak out about their treatment at the hands of British Para Swimming. This news has absolutely nothing to do with classification.

          • Jonny_B says:

            If cheating is going on, surely an opportunity to shine light on it should be maximised, no? Not withstanding Greenwood and Furber should not be permitted to work in sport at any level…

          • LMA says:

            And what about the athletes who know that classification cheating is going on, whose careers have been ruined because of the cheats but are contracted to silence? They also have been abused. Of course Marks comment is relevant and of course now all areas of Para Sport needs to be scrutinised.

          • Mark says:

            Yes it does have everything to do with classification as some might have been bullied into acting like their disability was worse than it was.
            Those at the top knew and helped those commit IM so get of your high horse and face the facts !!!

            Fake name come out and face the truth

        • Mark says:

          Only a complete Vutulaki would dislike a post showing the evidence is out there
          Sad sad person you must be one of those who are happy to see genuine disabled swimmers cheated out off medals

          • Estee123 says:

            I’m not saying that the classification issue doesn’t need to be resolved or that the NGB were not complicit in supporting athletes to IM their conditions – I don’t know. You could also take the view that the athletes you’ve recently referred to – Millward, Tai and Richter (and their parents) – knew exactly what they were doing and were prepared to take this risk. All have been classed down and immediately broken world records and Tai on an upward trajectory too. Millward especially is in her 30s so must’ve known the score and has lost credibility and this will be a sad end to her career I agree classification is important and it is not only these female swimmers who need looking at as there are some very dubious male swimmers too. I also welcome the fact that World Para Swimming will put all athletes with a PI back into review status on 1st January. All I was saying is that the disgusting bullying and intimidation which has come to light involves a large number of athletes who were brave and came forward to make formal complaints (maybe not even these particular ones – who knows for sure?). They deserve the support and respect of the public and for this particular article not to be used as a platform for you to vent about classification (just this once!). Oh and if you want to call a woman a wanker be straight and do it in English and not Fijian (I’m assuming you don’t actually hail from Fiji??? #shocking ?

          • Mark says:

            Well it’s the benefit of being adopted by a Fijian family, and maybe if you did not hide behind false names and said your real name maybe I would have not treated you like a man

          • Estee123 says:

            My name is Estee – don’t know many men by this name #excuses

          • Mark says:

            Not many women have this name from the Latin for star or those of little IQ depending on which website you look on.
            I take it it is the latter after reading some of your previous posts supporting well known IM cheats

          • Estee123 says:

            In a free society everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but in your case you seem to browbeat and verbally abuse those whose opinions don’t ‘exactly’ match yours. This is sad as you do have some legitimate arguments, but in my ‘opinion’ sometimes go about things in the wrong way. You also don’t have all the facts and seem to tar all neuro athletes with the same brush. I assume you also have no medical training from some of your comments. I do – so please don’t confuse my medical degree with your google search. You frequently put out the idea that unless you have something missing you can’t really be disabled. This sets the disability movement back massively in my ‘opinion’. Also calling a woman a ‘wanker’ and saying that I have a low IQ are just today’s examples of your lack of self control. You call out bullies but then do it yourself and the proof is there for all to see on SwimSwam threads. Don’t allow yourself to become so embittered that the message is lost and you end up looking as bad as the people you criticise. I think the administrator of this website should look carefully at your behaviour. I will no longer comment but feel really sad that I am unable to give my ‘opinion’ for fear of being harassed in this way.

          • Mark says:

            Wow what can I say !!! You have a degree I take it you are heavily involved in Para swimming and have seen the evidence presented???
            You questioned my rights to bring classification into this matter and then say you can’t give your opinion!!
            Kettle black me thinks
            As for medical training which by the way I do ( thanks to HMF) and with the help of many experts in both physical and neurological conditions have proven my claims. As for bullying I very much doubt it I just find those who deny the facts or come up with numerous excuses as to why these matters are allowed to go on part of the problem. Also Vutulaki has a number of meanings but you chose the only meaning you could google.

        • Spectator says:

          @MARK, You have indicated above you have proof of cheating? Are we able to see it?

          • Mark says:

            I will send proof if you e mail me with proof of who you are!!
            Some of the evidence is quite damming and those involved are desperate to see what has been passed onto the British parliamentary subcommittee and IPC
            [email protected]

  4. LMA says:

    It is appalling that Chris Furber has kept his job, he certainly needs to go – he is employed as Performance Director for goodness sake. Incredible that they thought they could keep the names of those involved underwap. The positives here are that the swimmers had somewhere to go (BAC British Athletics Commission) to voice their complaints and that it was immediately and independently investigated. I’m interested to know how similar complaints would be dealt with in USA & Australia. Where do their athletes go to raise concerns?
    I also hope that this is the start of a mass clean up of Para Swimming. Stephanie Millward and her electric wheelchair during the Paralympic Games 2016, pfffftt! She certainly didn’t need it in the Royal Box, Wimbledon nor whilst receiving her MBE from Prince Charles. She was so desperate for a Gold Medal that she made sure she was classed down from S9 to S8 with her ‘relapsing remitting MS’ prior to Rio 2016. Took her two attempts though! With the impending classification review in Para Swimming, I hope that she is classed backed up to S9 where she belongs. Yes the ‘Great’ Brits whose 2nd place on the medal table was achieved by Classification cheats amid a culture of fear that had devastating effects on the most vulnerable athletes. Thank you Stephanie Millward, you may have just opened Pandoras Box. I hope though that you are as forthright and honest when it comes to the investigation regarding your rather convenient reclassification prior to Rio – at 34 years old. I also hope that Chris Furber speaks up about classification cheating at the Parliamentary Committee hearing this month – before he is sacked. Tim Hollingsworth BPA CEO and Craig Nicholson, British Swimming’s Performance Pathway Manager and IPC International Classifier also need to speak the truth at this hearing.

    • Lumpy says:

      Spot on , I for one think theses people should be sacked and not aloud to work within coaching again some ignorant the people bullied are young ones ,
      Come on Ipc sort out this stuff before it gets more out of hand it an absolute joke we all know you know what is going on even contributed to the cheating and Turing a blind eye ,
      Well Pete and mike ( Ipc) time is ticking away , you lied to me and I’m not letting this go …….

    • Mark says:

      Craig Nicholson is another spineless member of the GB set up, and he is fully aware of the cheating in GB swimming. I watched this man facilitate a young swimmers IM whilst he sat and drank his drink.

  5. G.I.N.A says:

    Crofts Dog show has been slipping too . The recent German Shepherd winners have been cruelly distorted as have many other breeds .

    I know that the British have always disliked people but they used to love their dogs. What is left?

  6. G.I.N.A says:

    See the discussion above is worse than the dog show . The whole idea of putting ppl into 14 different categories ( plus open) is ridiculous . Why not let tham compete in Show , Obediance , Retrieving or Obstacle course like the dogs . I figure the open would be the racing ( speed) . They put whippets in under 5 & over 5 years old .for example like our Masters .

    Anyhow carry on .

  7. Worried para parent !! says:

    This is about the poor athletes involved and the emotional abuse they went through this has nothing to do with classification and actually shouldn’t be brought up, the athletes suffered under Rob greenwood and Chris Fuber and what is more worrying is that Chris Fuber is still in a role with lots of young athletes how the British can keep him is beggars belief if the man had any ounce of respect for the athletes he would walk !!! Maybe a whole new staff structure and let British para swimming rebuild !!! And a new British swimming board !!

    • LMA says:

      I agree that it’s very concerning that Furber has remained. However, I disagree that classification cheating shouldn’t be brought up. This is a serious form of abuse that also has widespread and long term implications on the mental health of all of the athletes involved, directly or indirectly. The culture of British Swimming needs to be closely scrutinised in its entirety. That Furber remains in his post suggests to me that they aren’t really taking anything seriously at all and you have every reason to be worried. Rob Greenwood left and Chris Furber faced internal disciplinary action. That should not be the end. It should be the beginning of a full review into the culture of British Para Swimming.

      • P-Diddy says:

        where is rod greenwood now? did he leave for another job? he has not commented or denied any of it all

        • Lumpy says:

          What’s he betting he will pop up in another coaching job , just different job , and this will prob all forgot about in a few months time , or so they hope ,
          they should of all lost the jobs it is disgusting how they have managed to carrry on , especially when they knew it was going on ,
          the swimmers had no one to speak to tells you all really ,
          and this is not just the coaches at the top this is happening down the line starting from the first run of the ladder once you are on the talent programme comments are said that are not nice , yet we are scared to say anything in case it ruines chances of staying and progressing up the ladder , this has quite clearly been said to me in an email personally to me when I have stood up for my child !!!!
          I’m sorry this bullying is the tip of the ice burg from British swimming they all knew and did nothing .
          Same for the cheating or as we now have to call it manipulating classification because it’s not just the swimmers doing it they are being coached to do it and the Ipc know this and they are complaisant and do nothing to resolve it
          There is a lot of money and life style to all involved so yeah they are going to continue because of medals and funding , and a wage packet ,
          I really do hope at the end of all this it will be a more better sport for all ,and something to be proud of but I know things will be said to make it look like they are trying for change and that at the parliament meeting in London soon will be the start of sorting out British swimming ,
          As I saw from my own eyes how the top talent coaches turned a blind eye during classification and even played a part in it with Craig nickelson sat there and did nothing

        • LMA says:

          No clue P-DIDDY but some very unsavoury details are emerging via BBC regarding a previous employment with UK police. I understand the man was a 2000 Olympian (Swimming) and prior to the British Swimming Para Head Coach position spent 5 years at the Stirling University program in a high performance role (Ross Murdoch is one swimmer that springs to mind). If the UK police story can be proven then the question that needs to be asked is how the heck did he end up in a position working with children, disabled ones at that. Surely police checks form part of the recruitment process.

    • P-Diddy says:

      his references were immaculate? he could not have been very honest.. amazing and lucky escape for edmonton club

      • LMA says:

        I’m sure he would have been provided with references from Furber, British Swimming & ParalympicsGB. The +ve is that he is now available to attend the Paraliamentary Committee Review on 31st Oct.

  8. LMA says:

    Para-swimming: New details emerge from confidential report into ‘climate of fear’ – BBC Sport

  9. Spectator says:

    Interesting article written by Dan Roan “15/Oct”. “banned swimmers from leaving hotels “as punishment”. It’s my understanding that this was a five-star hotel. Doesn’t feel like we’re quite getting the balance to these stories?

  10. Mark says:

    Right folks if you ask to see any of the evidence then please do not send me e mails from fake accounts!!!
    I am big and ugly enough to standby my posts and say it to anyone’s face.
    So if your not prepared to do the same and disclose who you are then don’t expect to see the evidence

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About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

Loretta grew up outside Toledo, OH, where she swam age group and high school. Graduating from Xavier University, she stayed in the Cincinnati, OH area and currently resides just outside the city in Northern KY.  Loretta got back into the sport of swimming via Masters and now competes and is …

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