Swimming legend Kieren Perkins hit back at swimmer Maddie Groves on Friday when he said the sport’s peak body could not get in touch with the disgruntled athlete.
In an interview on ABC TV, Perkins, in his role as president of Swimming Australia, said the organisation had tried without success to contact Groves about the complaints she first aired on social media in November 2020.
‘We’ve reached out to her since December 2020 to try and engage her on these concerns that she has,’ Perkins said.
‘We’ve done it again now and unfortunately at this point, we’ve not been able to have a direct conversation with Maddie to understand what her concerns are, who the people involved are, so we can investigate and deal with it.
‘We certainly encourage her to do that because this is one of the most significant issues and challenges that we and all sports have, to make sure our athletes are well supported and protected in their environment.
‘Unfortunately we’ve just not been able to do that because Maddie has not engaged with us directly yet.’
Perkins said the sport had done ‘a mountain of work over the last few years’, including improving processes for whistleblower investigations, after it had been mentioned in the Royal Commission into institutional abuse.
Groves announced on Wednesday she would not swim at the Olympic trials in Adelaide, due to begin this weekend, after calling out the ‘misogynistic perverts’ and their ‘boot lickers’ she says are running the sport.
The 26-year-old winner of two Olympic silver medals at the 2016 Games in Rio then unleashed on the Australian swimming community and in particular those in charge in a series of blistering social media posts on Thursday.
‘Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers,’ her furious post said on Thursday morning.
Decorated Australian swimmer Maddie Groves has angrily withdrawn from the upcoming Olympic Games, issuing a series of furious statements, including one directed at ‘misogynistic perverts’
An unearthed tweet from last year shows Groves may have been considering withdrawing from the Olympics for more than six months
Kieren Perkins, Olympic great and Swimming Australia President, said the sport had tried to get in touch with Groves since she first posted her concerns in late 2020
Maddie Groves poses on the podium during the Women’s 200m Butterfly medal ceremony at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre in 2014 after winning a bronze medal
A tweet from November 30 last year showed Groves had been considering withdrawing from the Olympics for more than six months.
‘Can I just say, that I definitely made a complaint a few years ago about a person that works at swimming making me feel uncomfortable the way they stare at me in my togs, and I think they’ve possibly been given a promotion since,’ she wrote.
Groves has received an outpouring of support from parents who have heroed her for taking a stand against sexism in the sporting industry.
‘As the father of a strong and incredible three-year-old girl, thank you for trying to make the world a better place for her,’ one father replied to Groves’ tweet.
Following the highly-circulated posts, Groves announced on Friday morning that she would be deleting her social media accounts.
‘Thanks for all the support. I’m deleting this app for the moment but while I’ve got your attention please consider donating to or sharing my friend’s cancer treatment fund,’ she wrote on Twitter.
She then took to Instagram to reveal she wouldn’t be doing any more interviews or further public comments.
‘I haven’t had time to reply to everyone but I really appreciate the kind words. I’m not speaking to any media and I’m going on holidays now,’ she wrote.
Her initial post sent shockwaves through the sport with diver Brittany O’Brien, Olympic silver medallist Taylor McKeown and Paralympian Monique Murphy weighing in.
Groves posted she felt ‘supported’ in her decision and vowed to return to racing later in 2021.
‘You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus,’ she wrote.
Groves posted that she felt ‘supported’ in her decision and vowed to return to racing later in 2021
Groves was entered in the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle events at the trials in Adelaide
‘Time’s UP. Make them pervs quake in fear from the number of people supporting a statement that threatens their existence.’
Groves then appeared to take exception with a private message she may have received on social media in reply to her tirade.
‘If you or your partner have contributed to an environment that’s unsupportive of people with chronic illness or made decisions around cutting athlete funding in the last four years do not f***ing DM me telling me I’m brave for pulling out of the Olympic trials,’ she posted on Instagram.
‘What’s brave is showing your face in a community you’ve ripped off for the sake of your own career.’
The Olympian wrote a scathing message on Instagram (pictured) – apparently directed at members of the Australian swimming community
Groves was due to compete in the 100m butterfly and 50m freestyle events at the trials in Adelaide, which start on Saturday.
She revealed on Instagram that she has both endometriosis and adenomyosis – both conditions relating to abnormal growth of the uterus that can result in heavy and painful menstrual bleeding.
‘I’m not ready to have babies yet but it’s scary to think because I have endometriosis and adenomyosis, I could face issues with infertility,’ she said in April.
Last year, the Olympian shared a photo of herself in hospital bed as she underwent surgery which would see her enter ‘medically induced menopause’ to combat her adenomyosis, which she frequently raises awareness about over social media.
At the time, she said accessing treatment had become more difficult throughout the pandemic as resources had been ‘redirected’.
Her endometriosis which was finally diagnosed in 2017, saw her sidelined through many competitions in the highlight of her career.
Groves was crowned the national champion at the Australian Swimming Championship in the 200m butterfly for four consecutive years from 2013.
In 2016, she was selected to represent Australia in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, taking out the Silver for the 200m butterfly racing event.