Maddie Groves takes aim at Swimming Australia’s Kieren Perkins over denial of cultural problems

Maddie Groves has accused Swimming Australia’s president Kieren Perkins of a “shocking” and “irresponsible” denial of cultural problems in the sport following comments made by Perkins in August this year.

Groves withdrew from Australia’s selection trials for the recent Tokyo Olympics, citing a misogynistic culture in swimming. Her claims triggered a wave of controversy as others alleged abusive practices in the sport.

SA has formed an independent panel to investigate the claims which will deliver its findings to Perkins and Australian Sports Commission chair Josephine Sukkar.

Perkins, in an interview with Nine’s Wide World of Sport early last month, acknowledged the sport has its issues, but he used the camaraderie of the Olympic team in Tokyo as an example of how “swimming’s in a great place at the moment”.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re perfect, it doesn’t mean there’s not challenges, but to suggest that there’s some kind of deep, endemic issue is miles away from the mark,” he said.

Perkins added he would “defy anyone to suggest there’s a cultural issue in swimming at the moment” and in a series of Instagram posts, Groves has taken aim at Perkins for that comment.

“To ‘defy anyone to suggest there’s a cultural issue’ while there is an ongoing investigation is absolutely shocking and totally irresponsible,” Groves wrote.

“How could anyone trust that Kieren will act on the report when he is already openly denying there are problems despite already being told about them? Is this the right person to lead Australia’s premier Olympic sport into the future. I don’t think so.”

Groves met with Perkins and SA’s chief executive Alex Baumann, who will soon quit the role due to health reasons, in late June.

Groves, who won two silver medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said she alleged “some specific misconduct by current employees of Swimming Australia”.

“I also mentioned that I had received a significant number of messages from people reporting misconduct in Australian Swimming (from roughly 78 people at the time, I’ve had many more since) and at that time several people were willing to sign sworn affidavits outlining misconduct,” she wrote.

“Despite knowing this, and the fact there is an ongoing investigation going on into Swimming Australia, Kieren thought it was appropriate to say these things publicly.

“When this article came out – I had people contact me saying they no longer felt comfortable making a submission because of these comments.”

SA’s board on Thursday agreed to authorise Sport Integrity Australia to manage serious complaints from within the sport.

Perkins, in a statement that did not address Groves’ latest claims, said the decision was a step in the right direction following the announcement of the independent panel to look into issues prompted by Groves’ claims.