Australia London 2012 Olympic swim team 'toxic'

Australia's women's 4 x 100m freestyle relay team celebrate their gold medals on 28 July 2012
Image caption The women's 4 x 100m freestyle relay team won Australia's only swimming gold in London

Australia's Olympic swimmers existed within a "toxic" team culture that led to bullying and misuse of prescription drugs, a report has found.

The review was ordered by the sport's governing body after Australia's swimmers saw their worst Olympic performance in two decades last year.

It found standards and discipline were "too loose", and incidents of "intimidation" were not addressed.

There was a "dire need" for stronger leadership, the report found.

Australia's swimmers won just one gold medal at London 2012, far short of previous medal hauls at other recent Olympics.

'Lonely Olympics'

The most significant issue, the report found, was a "quietly growing lack of focus on people across the board".

"Participants reported that in the zealous and streamlined attempts to obtain gold medals, the delicate management of motivation, communication and collaboration were lost."

There was an "increasingly desperate emphasis on gold", the report said, and morale dropped as the games unfolded without the anticipated medal haul.

Management appeared unprepared to tackle the absence of success, it said, leaving swimmers feeling "undefended, alone, alienated".

"Swimmers described these games as the 'Lonely Olympics' and the 'Individual Olympics'," the report said, adding that the lack of cohesion meant that poor behaviour went unchecked.

"Some individual incidents of unkindness, peer intimidation, hazing and just 'bad form' as a team member that were escalated to personal coaches were not addressed," it said.

"There were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements (such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying) to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers."

"No such collective action was taken," the report said.

There was a "dire need to develop and enable leadership" throughout the sport, it concluded, listing recommendations that included leadership training for coaches and setting parameters for athletes' behaviour.

'Better team'

Responding to the report, Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent said efforts were needed to address the way teams were operated.

"It is a pretty emotive word, 'toxic'. Behavioural issues weren't overtly obvious that I saw and I think we are going to be addressing all those things within the ethical framework that has been developed," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted him as saying.

"There is a massive willingness for everyone to pull together to make this a better team for the future."

The revelations come in an unhappy two weeks for Australian sport, reports the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

Earlier this month, the government released a report from the country's crime commission containing allegations of "widespread" doping across a range of sports, but mainly Australian Rules Football and rugby league.

This is another damaging blow to the country's sporting reputation, our correspondent says.

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