British Swimming Apologises For ‘Climate Of Fear’ In Para-Swimming; GB To Miss Mexico

2017-10-12 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Turbulent waters ... By Craig Lord

British Swimming has issued an apology after an independent investigation concluded a former member of staff “created a climate of fear” for a number of athletes in the British Para-Swimming programme.

The inquiry found he had communicated “with athletes in an abusive manner, as well as using derogatory terms to describe athletes” and that overall they had been subject to “unacceptable behaviours and comments”.

While one member of staff left before the investigation took place, a second has been subject to disciplinary action and remains in post after admitting to mistakes in his management of and communication with athletes and their parents/guardians.

Initial allegations were made to the British Athletes Commission in October 2016 and the matter was referred to the national governing body in December.

Thirteen athletes and 10 coaches were questioned in February 2017 as part of the investigation led by two former police officers and the lead investigator who was experienced in public safeguarding in sport.

A statement from British Swimming says:

“As regards the one member of staff who has left, it was found that he had created a climate of fear for some athletes in the British Para-Swimming programme and there had also been breaches of the staff code by communicating with athletes in an abusive manner, as well as using derogatory terms to describe athletes.

“As for the second member of staff, it was found that athletes were not managed to the appropriate level, there was failure to ensure management control and lack of empathy was shown towards athletes. Communication with both athletes and their parents/guardians was also found to need improvement. The member of staff acknowledged mistakes had been made.”

Action plan being implemented.

“While the BPS remains focused on continuing to deliver best performances at major British Para-Swimming competitions resulting in medals, this needs to be achieved in a changed culture which is more positive, transparent, and sustainable through athlete and staff training and development. British Swimming is reviewing the staff code of conduct, safeguarding policies and the whistleblowing policy to ensure they continue to be fit for purpose and widely communicated.”

Statement from Chairman British Swimming, Maurice Watkins CBE

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 who 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.”

Statement from Chair British Athletes Commission, Victoria Aggar

“The British Athletes Commission is pleased to have been able to support its members through the independent investigation recently undertaken by British Para-Swimming.  The BAC remains focused on supporting its members and looks forward to working with British Para-Swimming, and all other National Governing Bodies now and in the future, to support a healthy and positive culture for all athletes.”

British Team Withdraws From World Para-Swimming Championships

The statement above followed British Para-Swimming’s announcement they would not be attending the rescheduled World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City.

The event had originally been scheduled to run from September 30-October 6 but was postponed following the earthquake in central Mexico that caused more than 200 fatalities and left devastating damage.

The championships were then rearranged and will run from November 27-December 7 but the British team will be absent with British Swimming chief executive Jack Buckner citing a number of concerns including safety and the impact of the timing of the event on education, training and competition.

A statement from Jack Buckner read:

“A World Championships is the biggest meet for the sport outside of Paralympics and we are disappointed to have to make a decision about our attendance.

“We understand that this decision is difficult for the athletes who worked hard to be at their best for the World Championships but the safety and wellbeing of athletes and staff has to be our priority. There are a number of concerns the sport has including the impact on education for the number of athletes we have in full-time education and the timeline to be able to be the best prepared for this competition.

“We wish all our athletes and staff all the best with their winter training schedules and preparations for next year.

“For the people of Mexico who have experienced the tragic events of the earthquake, we send our continued sympathies.”

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