British para-swimmers bullied and verbally abused in coach’s ‘climate of fear’

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The duty of care scandal engulfing Olympic and Paralympic sport has plunged to a new low as British Swimming admitted disabled swimmers, including vulnerable teenagers, were subjected to a “climate of fear” while training for Rio 2016.

The former head coach of British Para-Swimming, Rob Greenwood, has left his post and the governing body took the rare step of publicly apologising to athletes he was found to have verbally abused and used discriminatory language about, as well as their families.

The Guardian understands the situation was deemed so serious that a group of affected athletes, which includes Paralympic champions, were offered complimentary psychotherapy sessions if they required help coping with the trauma of the abuse and subsequent investigations.

The performance director, Chris Furber, has also faced internal disciplinary action although this is in regard to management failings and a “lack of empathy” towards athletes. He is not accused of abuse or discrimination. […]

The swimmers were enormously successful, winning 47 medals, 16 of them gold, and finishing second in the medal table, contributing to Greenwood being handed the High Performance Coach of the Year award by Sports Coach UK in November 2016.

Months later he was gone in a cloud of controversy and suspicion. The chairman of British Swimming, Maurice Watkins, said: “On behalf of British Swimming I want to apologise to the British Para-Swimming athletes and their families who have faced unacceptable behaviours and comments. I have written to those athletes and their families I understand have been affected by this.

“In the pursuit of excellence, we recognise there have been failings in the culture and communication within British Para-Swimming. We are correcting that, recognising the need to ensure strong athlete welfare in our sport. British Swimming has in place a robust action plan, which follows a lengthy and detailed inquiry designed to make sure transparent procedures are followed and adhered to. These procedures are being widely communicated. We want to ensure a closer working relationship with the British Athletes Commission. Our goal continues to be medal-producing performances, consistent with medal targets, in a positive culture.”

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Photo by Ben124.

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