Maddie Groves opens dialogue with Swimming Australia as the sport grapples with its treatment of women

Maddie Groves opens dialogue with Swimming Australia as the sport grapples with its treatment of women

Maddie Groves

Swimmer Maddie Groves has reportedly made contact with Swimming Australia and is willing to talk to the sporting body, following her withdrawal from the Olympic trials in Adelaide.

Last week, Groves made a splash in the swimming world when she posted on social media she would be pulling out of the Olympic trials, saying it should be taken as a lesson to “misogynistic perverts” in the sport. Her posts refreshed an important conversation about the treatment of women in sport, and issues like body shaming and medical gaslighting.

Groves won two silver medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016, so her withdrawal has been a blow for Swimming Australia.

“Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers,” she tweeted. “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. Time’s UP.”

In a statement provided to Nine, Swimming Australia confirmed Groves had contacted them through a third party.

“We can confirm Swimming Australia was contacted by Madeline Groves, through a third party, with an invitation to meet with CEO Alex Baumann and President Kieren Perkins,” the statement said.

“We look forward to having this constructive conversation.”

The statement from Swimming Australia also comes after CEO Alex Baumann and board member Tracy Stockwell told the media before the start of the trials that an independent all-female panel will be established to investigate the sport’s ongoing issues.

Since allegations about sexism in swimming have come to the surface, some prominent women in the sporting world have come forward with comments about a “boys’ club” mentality in the wider Australian sport system.

Former Swimming Australia CEO Leigh Russell tweeted that the only people who don’t believe there is a problem are those benefiting from the current system.

“It is time to listen and learn rather than continue to speak and spin the wheels. Listen to the experiences of women, athletes to administrators. Listen to the solutions. The only people who don’t believe there’s a problem are those benefiting from the system as it is,” Russell wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Former Sport Australia boss Kate Palmer has also made comments about high-performance sport in Australia being a “boys’ club” that systematically excludes women from senior leadership and coaching positions. She told Nine the system is broken, and the focus has always been incorrectly placed on “fixing women” by providing them with mentoring and courses.

High profile former Olympians have also expressed their disappointment following Groves’ allegations, including Grant Hackett who said “people that are partaking in this behaviour need to be weeded out” to move the sport forward.

Meanwhile Leisel Jones told ABC’s Offsiders program that the allegations need to be taken very seriously.

“We’ve got to remember that the athletes come first they are the most important thing, and in swimming particularly the females can be quite young,” Jones said.

“I made my first Olympic team when I was 14 so that’s a pretty young woman to be coming through and to be learning. We’ve got very influential and very big names in our sport and very influential coaches so we need to make sure that we have the right people in there.”

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