Australian swimmers are demanding their governing body declare how much money has been spent to bankroll the return of comeback stars Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim and Libby Trickett amid rumors of “six-figure handshakes”. According to The Daily Telegraph, it is understood that in the team agreements, where rankings determine pay, Thorpe was given AUS $100,000 while triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice was offered just $12,500.
At the core of the innuendo is a phone call from one Swimming Australia official to coach Ian Pope offering to pay Klim, not knowing the two were no longer associated. Pope refused to discuss the phone call, but one source suggested the figures surrounding Thorpe’s comeback are quite “scary” and “if he has been paid by the sport it’s really going to cause angst”.
While there is no doubt Thorpe has the financial backing to afford such an extravagant return, questions are being raised about the cost Swimming Australia has incurred. Head coach Leigh Nugent and high-performance scientist Bernard Savage have each made multiple trips, costing tens of thousands of dollars, to Switzerland to monitor the 29-year-old’s progress.
Swimming Australia chief executive Kevin Neil said the trips coincided with Olympic site visits or other business in Europe, and denied the comeback stars had been paid any cash, but added they were given support for training expenses (including sports science and physiotherapy). “Ian Thorpe has received not one cent from Swimming Australia. None of those three have received any cash,” Neil said. “All three athletes who have indicated they were making a comeback have been supported in their daily training environment, like all athletes.