Australian swimmers to face integrity panel

Last updated 16:23 22/02/2013
Australia Swim Team
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The six-man relay team, consisting of James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, Matt Targett, Cameron McEvoy and Tommaso D'Orsogna.

Jade Neilsen
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JADE NEILSEN: "All I can say is their behaviour was completely inappropriate - it was so inappropriate it was not funny."

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Members of the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team will face a Swimming Australia integrity panel inquiry following admissions of misbehaviour at a team bonding session at Manchester before the London Olympics.

In statement read out by Australian Swimmers Association chief executive Daniel Kowalski on behalf of the six swimmers, Eamon Sullivan, Tommaso D'Orsogna, James Magnussen, James Roberts, Matt Targett and Cameron McEvoy, the squad admitted to taking the sedative Stilnox after a training session.

The pills were prescribed to Sullivan and Targett and the scripts were filled before the team left Australia and before the Australian Olympic Committee announced that team members were banned from using the drug about three weeks before the Games.

The team admitted that they used the drug in knowing it was banned by the AOC.

"We all acknowledge that at the time Stilnox was consumed, it had been recently prohibited by the AOC,’’ Kowalksi read.

‘‘We own up to it... and are deeply sorry for it.’’

They also said they made prank phone calls and knocked on team members’ doors as part of the initiation session.

The swimmers now face sanctions from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) which could include bans and fines.

The AOC banned athletes using Stilnox and other prescription sedatives.

The six freestyle relay squad members admitted to all taking one Stilnox tablet during their bonding session.

Favoured to win the gold medal in London, a team of Magnussen, Targett, Sullivan and Roberts swam the final and finished fourth.

The swimmers believed the bonding session was ‘‘harmless fun’’.

World 100m champion Magnussen and Sullivan insisted taking Stilnox had no effect ‘‘at all’’ on their swim performances in London.

Magnussen said the prescription drug was taken ‘‘to bond with these guys’’.

‘‘In hindsight it was a ridiculous choice and ridiculous method... but I don’t feel it affected my performance,’’ Magnussen said.

The revelations came a day after Swimming Australia (SA) created its integrity panel in the wake of two damning reviews released publicly on Tuesday.

One review, into culture and leadership, found a ‘‘toxic’’ culture cruelled Australia’s swim team at last year’s London Olympics.

Australian swimmers won just one gold, six silver and three bronze medals at the London Games, the lowest tally in the pool in two decades.

The nation also failed to produce an individual gold medallist for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

The review cited incidents of ‘‘getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying’’ which were not addressed by team hierarchy.

A separate review, into swimming’s governance and high performance programme, identified shortcomings including a lack of clear national vision and poor accountability, transparency and communication.

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It also found Swimming Australia’s board was unable to deal with issues and made 35 recommendations to improve governance and the high performance programme.

'IT WAS NOT FUNNY'

Fellow Olympian Jade Neilsen had spoken out ahead of that press conference, detailing her teammates' ''inappropriate behaviour''.

Neilsen said she and an unnamed roommate were woken by late-night phone calls and door-knocking from James Magnussen, James Roberts and Cameron McEvoy while at a team staging camp in Manchester.

Neilsen said she and her roommate told coaches of the men's strange behaviour, but were ignored.

''I will confirm they were being inappropriate and it was towards [unnamed roommate] and I. I won't specifically say [what happened],'' she told News Limited.

''It has sort of already come out, pretty much, what they've done. All I can say is their behaviour was completely inappropriate. It was so inappropriate it was not funny. That is all I can really say about that.''

News Limited reported that Magnussen barged into Neilsen's room with McEvoy, both wearing only jeans. Later, McEvoy reportedly returned with Roberts, who was wearing only underwear, and started banging on the door.

- SYDNEY MORNING HERALD WITH AAP

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