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Fri Apr 18 12:38:16 SAST 2014

Aussie morale hurt by indiscipline

Sapa-AFP | 12 September, 2012 09:310 Comments
Olympics Day 8 - Swimming
Bronze medallists (L-R) Christian Sprenger, James Magnussen, Matt Targett, and Hayden Stoeckel of Australia pose following the medal ceremony for the men's 4x100m medley relay final on day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 4, 2012 in London, England
Image by: Al Bello / Getty Images

Australia’s Olympic swimming team is facing disciplinary problems, including accusations of pranks ahead of the London Games, which undercut the squad’s morale, a report said on Wednesday.

Australia endured its worst swimming haul in decades in London, winning just one gold medal, six silver and three bronze for its lowest tally in the pool since Barcelona in 1992.

The lacklustre performance, in which no individual swimming gold medal was won for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Games, is being considered as part of an independent review of the sport.

The Australian newspaper said a breakdown in discipline had occurred, with insiders claiming that transgressions by the world champion men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team were overlooked because of their so-called special status.

It said there were “persistent reports” that some members of the six-man relay team had an initiation ritual in the days leading up to the Games which involved taking Stilnox — a sleeping medication banned by the Australian team.

The “bonding” night also including the swimmers upsetting some teammates and coaches by prank calling and knocking on their doors late at night at their camp in Manchester, two days before the team went to London.

Several of the six relay swimmers, who failed to win a medal in that event despite being heavily favoured, confirmed they had misbehaved on the night, although none would admit to taking Stilnox.

“The prank calls did happen but we weren’t under the influence of anything,” Matt Targett told the paper.

James Magnussen’s manager Mark Jones agreed the relay team “acted up a bit”.

“They knocked on some people’s doors and made prank calls but at absolutely no time was there any use of Stilnox or alcohol or any other substance,” he said.

Head coach Leigh Nugent refused to comment on the allegations.

“I am commenting no longer on London Olympics or preparations until the (Swimming Australia) review has completed and recommendations (are) delivered,” he told The Australian.

But team culture is under the spotlight after the Games, with reports that there was general feeling within the squad that some individual swimmers pursued their own aims, rather than those of the team.

Targett said team culture had changed in the six years he had been involved, with the loss of stars such as Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett felt by those left behind.

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