Following multiple claims of bullying by members of the British Paralympic swim team, British Swimming has launched an “independent fact-finding investigation” to assess any wrongdoing that might have occurred.
British Swimming’s chief executive David Sparks told the BBC “Whilst some athletes have expressed some concerns, we have immediately undertaken an independent fact-finding investigation into these.” According to the BBC, British Paralympic Swimming has been embroiled in a bullying scandal for the past two months.
British Swimming declined to comment on the athletes and coaches involved, and what if anything has been learned so far. Sparkes said “The investigation remains ongoing and, until it is completed, we do not propose to make any further comment.”
While the specifics of the bullying have not been fully disclosed, one athlete’s parent revealed that swimmers were “belittled and criticized.” The parent went on to say “We were told elite sport was not about the welfare of athletes but the pursuit of medals. There was a culture of fear.”
British Swimming is only the latest national governing body to become embroiled in a bullying case involving para athletes and coaches; British Cycling issued an apology last month for what it termed “failings” following an independent investigation spurred by claims of bullying and sexism. British track cyclist Jess Varnish claims to have been “thrown under the bus” and the victim of a “cover-up,” causing her to consider taking legal action against British Cycling and coach Shane Sutton, who British Cycling determined had used sexist language against Varnish. Ultimately, British Cycling introduced a new action plan of reforms to protect athletes, though Sutton was cleared of 8 out of the 9 allegations made against him. However, Sutton resigned as a coach with British Cycling in April of 2016.
Until British Swimming finishes the investigation it is unknown what measures the organization will take to regain the trust of allegedly victimized para athletes and their families. Regarding the investigation, UK Sport said:
“While we are disappointed to hear of these allegations, we are reassured that athletes feel able to challenge any behavior that they are uncomfortable with and that British Swimming are investigating.
“As part of our action plan following the independent review into British Cycling, we will be looking at sharing learnings and best practice across the entire high performance system to ensure we continue to support our best athletes to reach their full potential within a positive performance culture of the upmost integrity and ethical standards.”