Official Review Calls Swimming Australia “Culturally Toxic”

In an independent report called the “Bluestone Review,” Swimming Australia’s culture was blamed for the relative lack of success at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Among the harshly-worded language used in the review, conducted by an outside firm named Blueston Edge, was the finding that “there were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers. No such collective action was taken.”

Read the full review here.

The items specifically named in the review are below, though there was little detail on the more selacious of those findings:

  • getting drunk
  • misuse
  • prescription drugs
  • breeching curfews
  • deceit
  • bullying

The review also spoke to extreme fragmentation within Australia’s elite class of swimmer, more than would be expected even in a large group of that size, due to not enough opportunities for athletes to meld socially.

The specific recommendations to fix this culture include:

  • Creating an ethical framework
  • Update and refresh staff on internal codes of conduct for all levels of the organization
  • Develop more formalized models for dealing with issues relating to standards of conduct
  • Make sure that all levels of the organization are clearly and concisely communicated the standards of conduct and expectations.

Other areas that the organization commented on included the Swimming Australia brand, the community and connectedness of the sport, and the sport’s leadership. That includes a lot of thoughts about how the athletes interact with and are displayed by the Australian media. The more interesting recommendations were:

  • Better control over both traditional media and social media, as well as open forums for the best practices in each case.
  • Connect elite swimmers better with swimmers and their families at the “grass roots level,” and generally trying to better connect all levels of the sport.
  • Improve the partnership by “Investing and Reinvesting” in the ASA, which is the organization that represents Australia’s athletes collectively. Relations have immediately improved with the new executives at Swimming Australia, but under the old guard, Swimming Australia and the Australian Swimming Association were constantly butting-heads. The Bluestone review considered that the ASA should instead be used as a partner in driving the sport forward, while respecting their rights to negotiate on behalf of the athletes.
  • Develop more personalities beyond just the super-elite swimmers to spread the focus and build the base of the ‘swimming story’.
  • “Appoint leaders at all levels of the organisation based on leadership competency as well as experience,” seemingly a veiled accusation that the opposite had been happening.

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why don’t they just copy what the US does… clearly that is working

Different cultures ask for different actions..


To copy US they need a huge base and Club/Y, HS and College s like we do with an awesome amount of money expended. By these organizations indecent of a National dole and the enormous amount spent on swimmers by families with a large amount going to fund the national program and the clubs and thousands of coaches. They havebhadvto concentrate on relative few. Ever since 56 the Americans have gone at it like nobody’s business when the Aussies woke us up and age group began to turn out the numbers.

Ben (5.07 pm): can you please succinctly explain exactly what it is the USA does? There’s no doubt it’s working but what is ‘it’?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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