Longtime Danish Swimming Union director Pia Holmen has resigned from her position. The decision was announced by Board of Directors chairman Lars Jørgensen announced as he issued an apology for the practice of public weighing carried out by national team coaches Mark Regan and Paulus Wildeboer from 2003-2012.
The Union came under heavy criticism after a Danish Radio (DR) documentary reported last Spring on mid-2000s policies of weighing athletes publicly at the country’s national training center. The documentary also alleged that coaches degraded and bullied athletes during that time, tying the coaching behavior to athlete eating disorders.
Denmark’s Minister of Culture, Mette Bock, met with the Danish Swimming Union, Danish Sports Federation and several swimmers to discuss the issue. She ultimately called for an independent third party to undertake an investigation into the allegations. Jørgensen apology came after a press conference summarizing the findings of the investigation.
“As the Attorney General has described it, during the period 2003-2012 we had two country coaches – Mark Regan and Paulus Wildeboer – employed in succession,” Jørgensen said (translated from Danish). “It was a great upheaval for Danish national team swimming to work with these two international coaches – both for the athletes and for our management. As Denmark Radio revealed it in their documentary last year, and as the Chamber Attorney has confirmed in the recently published report, our then-sporting leadership had a hard time honoring these two coaches.”
Wildeboer died in 2014 at the age of 59 after a battle with prostate cancer.
“Unfortunately, the failure to rein in these two gentlemen had a negative impact on some young people who at the time cultivated their passion and at the same time struggled to realize their own sporting potential,” Jørgensen added. “I’m really sorry.”
The documentary said that future world champ and Olympic medalist Jeanette Ottesen left the national training center at age 17 with an eating disorder and depression, and also shared the stories of Kathrine Jorgensen, a top swimmer who developed anxiety, depression and bulimia and tried to overdose on pain medication in 2008, and Sidse Kehlet, a junior standout who developed bulimia, depression and medication abuse and was told by a doctor to stop swimming at 18 to recover from those conditions.
Though Jørgensen says the Union is “completely different” today, Holmen — the Union’s director since 2001 — resigned from her position.
“The Danish Swimming Union’s elite and national team work is a completely different place today, which I think the Attorney General’s report also confirms. Since 2013 we have had another sporting management and other coaches on the pool side,” Jørgensen continued. “But we have nevertheless agreed with our long-time director, Pia Holmen, that she quits as director of the Danish Swimming Union. It is entirely in Pia’s spirit that nothing must stand in the way of a continued positive development in Danish swimming, and therefore Pia is also fully aware of this for us drastic steps.”
Jørgensen concluded his statement by looking toward the work ahead.
“There is a great deal of work ahead of us to get a new leadership in the Danish Swimming Union in place and to continue to ensure the best possible conditions for our skilled national swimmers – both those who train at our National Training Center and for those who train in other environments. That is why we are now focusing our attention.”