Australian swim chief quits over ‘lewd remarks’

Barclay Nettlefold has stepped down from his role at the helm of Australian swimming. Picture: Getty
Barclay Nettlefold has stepped down from his role at the helm of Australian swimming. Picture: Getty
Share this article
Have your say

The man brought in to clean up Australia’s troubled national swimming team has been forced to resign after being caught up in an abuse scandal of his own.

Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold resigned yesterday after the sport’s governing body launched an investigation into accusations of lewd comments he made about female colleagues.

Mr Nettlefold was accused of making an inappropriate remark towards a female staff member in a lift at the national swimming titles in Adelaide last month.

Then came other allegations about an incident in a hotel room in Adelaide on 16 April, where several high ranking Swimming Australia officials were also present.

Mr Nettlefold is alleged to have made comments about a female sports scientist while she was out of the room and suggested team rooms be checked for sex toys and condoms. He later told those present in the room to call him “donkey’’ in reference to the size of his private parts.

An e-mail from a staff member which detailed the allegations against Mr Nettlefold also claimed he appeared to be “talking loud, fast and his behaviour was erratic.’’

It is a huge blow to a sport that had worked to rebuild a tattered reputation in the wake of the Olympic Stilnox scandal, in which their top male swimmers partied with the prescription drug in a pre-Games bonding sessions.

Mr Nettlefold had appeared alongside the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team when they admitted to Stilnox use, putting their hands up at a press conference in February.

Mr Nettlefold had overseen a major overhaul of Swimming Australia, leading the sport through the murky waters which followed the London Olympics, including a review which labelled the swim team’s culture “toxic’’ and an Australian Sports Commission review which recommended a host of fundamental changes.

Yesterday he said he had made some comments in jest to colleagues but conceded they were “not consistent with the standards expected of me.”

But after reading his resignation statement to a media throng outside his home, he claimed he was a victim of a personality attack.

Mr Nettlefold – who was only elected to the role in October – had been at the forefront of a dramatic Swimming Australia restructure prompted by two inquiries after Australia’s disappointing performance in the London Olympic pool.

He hoped his decision would ensure the progress he believed had been made since then continued.

“I would like to announce that the board of Swimming Australia has today accepted, with immediate effect, my resignation as president,” he said.

“My decision to step down will ensure the significant progress and substantial positive change to the sport of swimming in this country continues.

“There were some private comments I made in jest to my colleagues recently that were not consistent with the standards expected of me, standards I have urged to be incorporated into the future culture of Swimming Australia.

“I am proud to have initiated two independent inquiries into swimming and I commend the people who have worked with me and supported the drive for change.”