Maddie Groves' explosive new sexual assault allegation

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Maddie Groves has made further allegations about the culture of Australian swimming in an interview with the ABC.
Maddie Groves says she was sexually abused from the age of 13 by a man who remains employed by Swimming Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Olympic swimmer Maddie Groves has expanded upon her allegations of a toxic culture within Swimming Australia made earlier this year, saying she had been sexually abused as a teenager.

The 2016 Rio silver medallist told the ABC that the abuse had started when she was 13, and that the alleged perpetrator continues to work in the sport to this day.

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Groves put the swimming world on notice in June when she made the surprise move to withdraw from the Olympic trials, declaring her absence to be a 'lesson to misogynistic perverts and their bootlickers'.

As a result, an independent panel was set up by Swimming Australia to investigate claims of bullying and poor treatment within the team.

The 26-year-old has returned to competition in Europe over the past few months, and said the recent arrest of former swimming coach John Wright on child sexual abuse charges had motivated her to speak up more about her own experiences.

The ABC broadcast a three-part series on Wright, detailing allegations he had sexually abused young boys during the 1980s and 90s.

Groves said she believed there was an attitude within the sport that crimes of that nature were merely a feature of the past, not a problem that still needs to be addressed today.

"I think seeing the report on the John Wright case, there's this attitude that that type of thing is a historical issue and it doesn't happen anymore and that times have changed," Groves said.

"But I don't think that's necessarily true.

"Because when I was underage, on multiple occasions I was actually molested by an adult male."

The abuse began when Groves was just 13, she said, and continued until she turned 18.

She also said he hadn't made a formal complaint about the individual in question and would be unlikely to make one in the future.

Groves said she did not have full confidence in the process of making complaints, having felt unsupported in previous instances where she had raised concerns about the conduct of certain junior coaches.

Maddie Groves kickstarts misogyny conversation in Australian swimming

Groves put the culture of Australia's swimming programs under the spotlight when she went public with claims of a toxic culture within the sport.

She ultimately decided to withdraw from the Olympic trials for the Tokyo Games earlier this year in protest.

"You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus. Time's UP," Groves wrote on social media, taking aim at "misogynistic perverts" within the sport.

The target of her comments was not clear, but last November she complained on Twitter about "a person that works at swimming making me feel uncomfortable the way they stare at me" in her swimming costume.

Groves has gone silent in the months following her claims, but has since spoken again following Australia's record-breaking performance in the pool at the Tokyo Games.

While she admitted it was "disappointing" to miss the Olympics, Groves said she felt she needed to take a stand.

Maddie Groves has been competing in Europe, after making allegations of a toxic culture in Australian swimming prior to the Olympic trials. Picture: Instagram
Maddie Groves has been competing in Europe, after making allegations of a toxic culture in Australian swimming prior to the Olympic trials. Picture: Instagram

“I was calling a spade a spade. It’s something I have been wading through and dealing with for a few years, so it wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark,” Groves told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I had a lot of time to work out how I feel about things. One of the things I didn’t want to do was to go on and represent people I don’t feel comfortable working with.”

As the Aussies dominated the pool in Tokyo, Swimming Australia president Kieren Perkins said: “I defy anyone to suggest there’s a cultural issue in swimming at the moment”.

Groves admitted she was upset by the comment.

“It was incredibly disappointing that the head of the entire organisation could deny there could be improvement,” Groves told the Herald.

“It’s surprising because everyone else can see it. I have had a significant amount of people contact me and find out how they can get involved and speak to the independent panel, which is now taking submissions.

“I don’t have a lot of faith that things will change because I have spent the past few years trying to advocate for change. Seeing how unsuccessful that has been hasn’t really given me a lot of hope."

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