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Lid blown on AA ‘dictatorship’
Australian athletics heavyweights have demanded an external investigation into the sport’s peak body as fresh allegations emerge about axed coach Eric Hollingsworth and an apparent protection racket around him.
Hollingsworth was sensationally sent home from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after he labelled champion runner Sally Pearson a "bad example" for missing the team's pre-games training camp.
But it appears Hollingsworth's comment was the tip of the iceberg after years of alleged abusive treatment of athletes.
3AW has learned that triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Tamsyn Lewis Manou made an official complaint against Hollingsworth in 2012 for allegedly referring to her as "c---" in a meeting.
Lewis Manou was not present at the meeting, but filed an official complaint to Athletics Australia upon hearing the allegation.
Tim O'Shaughnessy, who was then a middle distance coach, confirmed the comment to Athletics Australia Chief Executive Dallas O'Brien.
But the complaint was thrown out.
"I told the CEO what I recalled," O'Shaughnessy said.
"What I was told by Athletics Australia is that no one else in the meeting could recall what happened."
Later that year, O'Shaughnessy was made redundant after Hollingsworth told the board he wanted to move in another direction.
"He didn't like me, I knew that," O'Shaughnessy told 3AW.
“There should absolutely be an external review, not internal.
“There's people inside the organisation who may not feel comfortable talking about certain instances with internal people."
Chief Executive of Athletics Australia Dallas O'Brien
Lewis Manou claimed Hollingsworth's abusive behaviour stretches back to their time at the Victorian Institute of Sport over a decade ago.
During that time, Lewis Manou approached Hollingsworth when she hadn’t received part of her funding.
When she asked why, he allegedly responded: "Because you didn't beg for it".
"I couldn't believe it,” Lewis Manou said. “I went straight home and told my Dad, I didn't know what to think."
In a separate incident, Lewis Manou claims Hollingsworth told her that her "body clock was ticking", and that she would "have to see his wife at the IVF clinic" if she wanted to keep running.
"I assume he meant that if I wanted to become a mother, I would have to stop running. It was a horrible comment."
Disgraced Coach Eric Hollingsworth (Photo: Getty Images)
Hollingsworth was hired by Danny Corcoran and given a two-year contract extension just before Corcoran left Athletics Australia for the Essendon Football Club.
Lewis Manou says she feels the problem runs deeper than just the coach.
"Our sport is in the hands of dictators, not communicators. For the benefit of the athletes, there needs to be an external investigation," she said.
"The Australian Sports Commission needs to get involved.
The investigation must be external and we must change this bullying environment to one of inclusion and support.”
Lewis Manou’s comments have been echoed by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ray Boyd.
Boyd, an 11-time Australian champion in pole vault, won gold in the 1982 games and has a daughter, Alana, who competed at the Glasgow games.
Boyd says Hollingsworth was a “bully”, who “should be given his marching orders”.
“He has slowly ostracised everybody that he’s ever come close to.”
The incident in the AA meeting in 2012, where Hollingsworth allegedly referred to Lewis-Manou as a “c---”, isn’t an isolated incident, Boyd claims.
“It’s been going on for years and years, I can’t understand it. His bedside manner was disgraceful.”
Boyd believes people have been complaining about Hollingsworth for several years, but nothing was ever done about it.
“He must’ve been protected,” Boyd said.
“All the kids can’t make a complaint because they know it will come back to bite them in the backside.
“They were scared that of losing funding. If you can’t go to the governing body and complain, they clearly don’t trust the administration or the board.”
Boyd, along with Lewis Manou, has hit out at the “internal investigation” that AA has launched after the debacle in Glasgow.
“It’s essentially police investigating police,” Boyd said.
“There should’ve been more credence given to some of the stuff lying around. You don’t have to be convicted of something in court to lose your job.
“It was always going to happen, always. At some stage the train was going to crash and he was going to take them down with him.”
Athletics Australia has been contacted by 3AW for comment.
Yeh right. Let the ASC / AIS be involved and investigate. Try airing any criticism at the ASC and see what bullying and harassment feels like. It is like letting North Korea investigate Russia.
It defies belief that Hollingsworth(ASC's CEO) and Favier still cling to their jobs despite leading Australia to its worst Olympic and Commonwealth games in 28 years. NaÃ¯ve to think that Australia has bottomed out yet. Many predict that Australia will perform even worth in Rio, out of the top 10 nations. Evidence? Check out Australia's performance in world cups and championships in Rowing, Cycling, Swimming etc. In Rowing for example it came 9th in last world cup. NZ came first. That's right NZ, whose head coach, Noel, Australia didn't re-hire.ASC Insider Friday 8 August, 2014 - 9:09 AM