Contradictions cloud controversy over camp

Fronting up … Australia's 4x100m Olympic swimming team faces the media in Sydney after owning up to pre-Games pranks and taking sleeping tablets at a training camp in Manchester. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Fronting up … Australia's 4x100m Olympic swimming team faces the media in Sydney after owning up to pre-Games pranks and taking sleeping tablets at a training camp in Manchester. Photo: Edwina Pickles

THE credibility of Australia's 4x100m relay team and the future of head coach Leigh Nugent remains under question after contradictory claims made by teammate Emily Seebohm, as it was announced on Friday there would be two new investigations launched into the team's pre-Olympics camp in Manchester.

Despite a declaration by Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold that he still had the full support of the body, Nugent's future has been thrown into more doubt after a series of candid interviews given by the silver-medal winning backstroker.

Seebohm revealed to the ABC she had blown the whistle to Nugent about the relay team's misbehaviour, which was at odds with the coach's denial earlier in the week that he had prior knowledge of the events in Manchester.

''I wasn't too happy with that,'' Seebohm said.

Nugent subsequently admitted he had erred by not making further inquiries about the claims. His inaction has raised the ire of the Australian Olympic Committee.

''[There is an] expectation of people in leadership positions if they do become [aware] of information like this through a camp or time in the village, there are protocols for them to tell us,'' committee secretary general Craig Phillips said. ''In this case, it did not happen.''

Seebohm also cast more doubt on the version of events put forward by James Magnussen and the 4x100m team, who said their night of high jinks and ''harmless fun'' ended by 10.30pm.

''I don't know how they were asleep at 10.30 if I got a call at 11 or 11.30 at night,'' Seebohm told Channel Nine.

''I had a time trial that morning and it was unfair to do that to other people.''

Magnussen disagreed with Seebohm's story.

Among the more lurid details to emerge from the night was Seebohm's claim that she had been asked what she was wearing by members of the team.

Swimming Australia and the committee have both announced they will launch separate inquiries to investigate allegations of drunkenness, misuse of prescription drugs, bullying and other breaches of the team agreement.

The AOC has decided to hire a yet-to-be-determined independent Queen's counsel with ''very strong investigative skills'', Phillips said.

''The appointment of the QC sends the signal from our perspective that we do take it seriously.''

The committee has the power to ban athletes from future Olympics, though this course of action has, in the past, been reserved for criminal activities.

''We've prevented athletes from being selected in Olympic teams for the fact they don't measure up to our standards of behaviour,'' Phillips said.

''We have a track record with that. If we have any athlete in that situation we would impose the same sorts of bans. Without pre-judging it, I couldn't tell you now if that applies to anyone in this group.''

Other sanctions possible include the stripping of the $10,000 Magnussen earned for his silver medal in the 100m freestyle and the $7500 collected by fellow 4x100m relay members Matt Targett and Tommaso D'Orsogna for winning bronze in the medley relay.

Australia's 4x100m relay team of Magnussen, Targett, D'Orsogna, Cameron McEvoy, James Roberts and Eamon Sullivan apologised for their part in the team bonding session.

All, apart from Roberts, said at a press conference on Friday that they had taken the sleeping drug Stilnox, which was banned by the committee, but only Sullivan and D'Orsogna admitted doing so to the Bluestone Edge review released this week.

The team said they had taken the drug, which had been prescribed to Sullivan and Targett before their arrival in Manchester and the announcement of the AOC ban.

It remains unclear whose idea it was to take the drug.

''Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I regret my decision,'' Sullivan said. ''As a senior member of the team I should have stood up and shown more leadership at the time. For that I'm truly sorry.

''If I thought for one moment that these actions and communal decision to take Stilnox would affect our performance, there's no way I would have done it.''

But the team said it did affect their failure to win the race for which they were unbackable favourites to collect gold.

Magnussen, who failed by 0.01 second to win the 100m freestyle, said he had viewed the night as a way to relieve the pressure heading into the Olympics.

''One of the reasons I agreed to go along with this night was I was feeling under so much pressure and it had been building for the best part of a year - the chance to bond with these guys and be normal for one night were my intentions,'' he said.

''Obviously, in hindsight, it was a ridiculous choice and a ridiculous method to do that.''

This story Contradictions cloud controversy over camp first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.