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Commonwealth Games gold medallist lifts lid on ‘toxic culture’ in Australian swimming

Neil Mitchell
Article image for Commonwealth Games gold medallist lifts lid on ‘toxic culture’ in Australian swimming

A Commonwealth Games gold medallist turned researcher has lifted the lid on “a body-focused, toxic culture” in Australian elite swimming.

Dr Jenny McMahon, a former elite swimmer and senior academic at the University of Tasmania, has interviewed hundreds of athletes and coaches over a 13 year period.

She says she experienced the toxic culture first hand when she was a swimmer, and it hasn’t changed.

“At the World Championships, I had a .05 increase of a kilo for three consecutive days and a senior coach and the team manager said to me ‘You’re showing us that you’re not committed and you’re going to be kicked off the team if you’re going to continue those weight increases’,” she told Tony Jones, filling in for Neil Mitchell.

“A senior female swimmer said ‘Look, just throw up after your meal. That’s how we manage our weight’.”

Dr McMahon says the same culture persists today.

“I’ve interviewed hundreds of athletes … over the last 13 years and they all, I mean all, have some sort of disordered eating practice,” she said.

“The legacy of this is really serious.

“It’s happened in the past and it’s no different now.”

Swimming Australia has announced a review into the sport’s treatment of women and girls, after Olympian Maddie Groves last week quit the Australian Olympic swim trials, saying there are “misogynistic perverts” in the sport.

But Dr McMahon says the review isn’t truly independent, and it should be looking at the treatment of all swimmers, not just women and girls.

“Swimming Australia really needs to initiate an independent review,” she said.

Press PLAY below to hear more about Dr McMahon’s personal experience and her research revealing a toxic culture in swimming

Neil Mitchell
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