The complaints levelled at Swimming Australia (SA) concerning physical and psychological abuse and sexual misconduct are concerning.
Elite swimmer Madeline Groves has complained about social media about her treatment at training. In doing so, Ms Groves has given life to the #MeToo Movement to swim coaching across Australia.
The extent and nature of the problem could be far-reaching. Compared to the number of children training and competing at swim clubs and even surf life-saving clubs around Australia, elite swimmers represent a mere fraction of what might be a much bigger problem.
Complaints posted on social media cause irreparable damage to institutions and individuals. Such posts invariably lack any underlying credible evidence.
Sexual Misconduct Complaints to be Investigated
As mentioned numerous times in blogs here, all complaints must be the subject of independent investigation by competent investigators. The nature and extent of the alleged behaviours, the number of alleged victims
involved and time frame for example will help shape the framework for an investigation and subsequent reporting. An investigation is to gather evidence and usually includes conducting interviews, accessing documents, CCTV and social media.
Potential Criminal Charges
If you are caught up in something like SA then there are risks whether or not you have any involvement in the impugned behaviours. The risks relate to anything from reputational damage through to criminal charges and imprisonment.
Things to Find Out if You are Asked to Participate in an Interview
At some stage, through the investigation, the investigators will want to interview individuals who could assist the investigation. If you are asked to participate in an interview you need to find out:
- Whether the interview is compulsory;
- Who is conducting the interview;
- If you are the subject of a complaint or you have general knowledge of the
- circumstances surrounding the complaint;
- Whether the question/s are fair and reasonable; and
- Whether there are adverse consequences if you do not participate in the interview.
The recent appointment by SA of prominent barrister Chris Ronalds SC to lead the investigation assures a thorough and competent investigation. Madeline Groves and other complainants have instructed lawyers which probably accounts for the fact that Madeline Groves has ceased posting on social media.
No doubt training elite swimmers to represent their country will involve gruelling training methods. It also takes extreme psychological and physical endurance not demanded in amateur swimming. The very training techniques may seem abusive to everyday mortals but routine to elite swimmers.
Lawyers Process of Investigation
The investigative process undertaken by lawyers will usually seek to determine whether there were unlawful behaviours such as sexual misconduct. It’s more tricky and certainly not within the domain of lawyers to make a call on whether training practices at an elite level are beyond that reasonably expected by elite coaches and athletes.
In this case, it’s for the administrators, trainers and past and present elite swimmers to make that call.