Swimmers admit to Stilnox-fuelled bonding session, apologise for their actions

Staff writers, Jim Wilson, AAP, Yahoo!7 Updated February 22, 2013, 4:09 pm

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) could withdraw funding for five Olympic swimmers, including world champion James Magnussen, who have admitted taking a banned prescription drug before the 2012 London Games.

The AOC said on Friday it has decided to hire a Queens Counsel to investigate the drug incident and other allegations of misbehaviour within the Australian Olympic swimming team.

Magnussen and four other members of Australia's 4x100m freestyle relay team - Tommaso D'Orsogna, Cameron McEvoy, Eamon Sullivan and Matthew Targett - confessed earlier on Friday to taking the sedative Stilnox as part of a "bonding session" at a pre-Olympic camp in Manchester.

The sixth member of the squad, James Roberts, said he had never taken Stilnox in his life.

The swimmers admitted they knew Stilnox had been banned by the AOC weeks beforehand.

"That night we shared some stories and as a group we decided to take the Stilnox," an apologetic Eamon Sullivan said.

"It did cross my mind that it was a bad idea.

"I'm not here to defend myself, I'm here to admit I made a bad decision.

"I should have showed more leadership at the time."

James Magnussen, dubbed 'The Missile' by press, was a favourite going into the Games. He said the chance to bond with his teammates was a welcome relief from the ongoing hype surrounding his imminent performance.

"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 was in my intention," Magnussen said.

"I have a lot of regrets, but I don't feel it [being a part of the bonding session] affected my performance."

Australian Swimmers' Association general manager and former Olympian Daniel Kowalski read out a statement on the relay swimmers' behalf.

"We all acknowledge that at the time Stilnox was consumed, it had been recently prohibited by the AOC," Kowalski read.

"We own up to it and are deeply sorry."

Kowalski revealed that the Stilnox was prescribed in Australia to Matt Targett and Eamon Sullivan prior to it being banned.

The incident reported occurred after a day of bonding between the men's relay team which involved a trip to the movies and dinner.

"It was at this dinner that Matt and Eamon were asked how they had bonded with senior members of the team when they were junior members. Eamon and Matt both shared their stories of initiation onto the relay squad and together we decided to continue in what we felt was a harmless activity and tradition," Kowalski said.

"We didn't think it was anything more childish behaviour and there was nothing untoward about our actions.

"We were all in bed by 10.30pm."

AOC secretary-general Craig Phillips said the five swimmers faced possible sanctions from the Olympic body, including withdrawing funding in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The AOC could also ask for money paid under the medal incentive scheme to be returned, meaning Magnussen could be forced to pay back $10,000 given to him for winning a silver medal at the Games.

The swimmers may also have broken an Australian team agreement.

Phillips said the AOC would await the outcome of Swimming Australia's newly-formed integrity panel, who will also investigate the swimmers.

The relay team members also admitted some of them made prank calls and knocked on other teammates' hotel room doors during the night but denied entering any rooms.

Their admission follows the publication of an independent review of the poor swim team campaign at the Games which found "toxic incidents" including misuse of prescription drugs, bullying and hazing went unchecked in the lead up.

"As a result of the revelations this week arising from the swimming reviews, the AOC has decided to engage a Queens Counsel to investigate these incidents further," Phillips said in a statement.

"We would fully expect that the athletes will give their total cooperation to any investigation we mount."

Earlier this morning swimmer Jade Neilsen revealed details of the drug-fuelled, late night antics prior to the London Olympics, in which her and her roommate had their door barged in by barely clothed members of the Australian men's relay team.

Neilsen was in camp in Manchester when she witnessed the destructive bender.

Jade Neilsen at the 2012 London Olympics. SOURCE: Getty Images

"I will confirm that they were being inappropriate and it was towards [name withheld] and I," Neilsen told News Limited.

"I won't specifically say [what happened]. It has sort of already come out pretty much what they've done.

"All I can say is their behaviour was completely inappropriate.

"It was so inappropriate it was not funny. That is all I can really say about that."

In the early hours, just after midnight, a group of male swimmers are believed to have door knocked and made menacing phone calls to female swimmers in camp.

Neilsen answered her door, only to have Magnussen and McEvoy barge in, shirtless. The pair then lingered, with one attempting to lay on one of the athletes' bed, before being asked to leave.

They returned later that morning, but did not enter the room. The women ignored the persistent knocking, this time from Roberts, in his underwear, with McEvoy in tow.

The two women told their coaches they were scared by the intrusion. The men were reportedly acting "strangely", stumbling and being disruptive.

The incident was reported to the Australian swim team's head coach Leigh Nugent, however no action was taken.

The cocktail of narcotics and stimulants can be deadly.

"They call the effect the Heath Ledger effect," Dr John Darcy explained.

"It's a complex mixture of chemicals in the brain that gives a fake high."

Seven News understands a number of sponsors have already pulled the pin on lucrative endorsements of the swim stars, and all this just days after a report exposed the "toxic" culture of Australia's swim team in London.

The Bluestone Review lifted the lid on athletes abusing prescription drugs, alcohol and curfews during Games.

Australia won just one gold medal in the pool in London, their worst Olympic performance in 20 years.

Meanwhile, Former Australian Rugby Union chairman Peter McGrath will head a Swimming Australia integrity panel that will look to discipline athletes, coaches and staff in the wake of the damning findings in the report.

Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold encouraged those approached by the panel to be forthcoming with information.

In regards to the 4x100m relay team, it may have already happened.

"We will be decisive, we will be firm and we will discipline athletes, coaches and staff accordingly, where such action is deemed appropriate and necessary," Nettlefold said.

"We want to stop talking about rumour and act on the facts of what did or did not actually occur."

One person under the spotlight is national swim team head coach Leigh Nugent, who oversaw Australian swimming's poor effort.

McGrath will be accompanied on the panel by Swimming Australia board members Peter Lozan, Chloe Flutter and interim chief executive Jeremy Turner.

Cameron McEvoy, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, James Magnussen, Matt Targett and Tommaso D'Orsogna. SOURCE: Getty Images

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  1. graham j05:17pm Friday 08th March 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    omg,swimming who cares ,who watches it ,what a waste of time and money ,give the sponsorship money to people who really need help,just look at the swimmers that get anywhere in swimming ,few months later there finished ,goes to there heads and think there god,for what swimming get real

  2. Jeffrey05:35pm Sunday 24th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Australia takes pride of its swimming accomplishment and we ought to continue supporting it. It is questionable to link the use of Stilnox to bad behaviour in a team where all the effects occurred at the same time within a small group. Bad behaviour needs to be dealt with you swiftly but in the confines of an internal investigation, there is no need at this stage for media headlines.....but alas we live in a sports-driven society! ,

  3. Senorita02:59pm Sunday 24th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I am sick of seeing some olympic swimmers acting like prima donas too much adulation was given to them by media etc. I was disgusted at the Asutralian teams entrance 'ramble' at the games opening and now this , I suggest they be kicked out of all future olympic teams and the team manager better shape up next time and 'know' what is going on. Bonding sessions indeed, How did the girls team bond?? utterly disgraceful behaviour for ones who are representing Australia. I would like to have heard more about the athletes that won medals that were not expected and their behaviour. Wonder what their thoughts are re this mess ?

  4. Robyn08:15am Sunday 24th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I believed our Australian Olympic athletes were or are the finest champions to represent Australia, and by doing that they share the hopes and dreams of our nation on the international stage, by winning. Instead the swim team showed selfish, self centred behaviour; who should have stayed at home and given other swimmers that cared about the game and country. Instead it was a free for all party before the opportunity of a life time to prove their winners the rest of their lives. I say prove yourself and show me the money!

  5. Jan12:35am Sunday 24th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I dont understand why the Aus Swim coach should be under the gun here - surely there was a team manager who should be responsible for behaviour of the team. Silly little boys who work so hard to get where they were and blew it with stupid behaviour. I dont see why the media/public should be blamed for pressure/hype when certain swimmers were bragging about their prospects themselves. How do they know this did not effect their performances?? Grow up guys - respect is earnt. Look at swimmers like Kieren Perkins and Thorpey - confident but not big headed.

  6. SmartyPants12:42pm Saturday 23rd February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    They are nothing but spoiled brats, as many of our youngsters nowadays. No respect and no recognition of any authority or rule... Welcome to the new generation. Keep letting them do whatever they want whenever they want... excellent results so far. NOT!

  7. Pebbleb12:29pm Saturday 23rd February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Get rid of the AIS and get back to the local coach's that gave us the Shane Goulds Ian thorps

  8. Undesirable12:24pm Saturday 23rd February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    I don't think any of you self-righteous chest beaters actually have a clue as to how much of your "hard earned" tax the sporting community receives. I guarantee you all spend more on coffee in a week than what you contribute to the Olympic cause in a year. Personally i'd like to see a whole lot more go to education so I wouldn't have to sift through the grammatical abortions that precede this message. Get your facts straight before you gobble up all this media driven garbage.

  9. Betty Swollocks12:03pm Saturday 23rd February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    What #$%$ Areel,,, Islam is the HOME of Homosexuals,. Get back to whence you came , Australia does not need the likes of you, , Boatman, crep

  10. leelee11:51am Saturday 23rd February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    They are Olympians yes but most have to prove themselves at that level, The media has helped create the "god" effect but in saying that they are adults who know the difference between right and wrong. I know if I was one of the parents(most of whom have given up everything to help their child reach the ultimate height) I would be absolutely furious and very disappointed.