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Former Swimming Australia executives deny Leigh Nugent’s claim of Stilnox cover-up

August 25, 2013
Former Swiming Australia president David Urquhart has lashed out at claims of an Olympic cover-up. Picture: Scott Fletcher

Former Swiming Australia president David Urquhart has lashed out at claims of an Olympic cover-up. Picture: Scott Fletcher

Formr Swimming Australia powerbrokers have rejected claims they orchestrated the Stilnox cover-up and believe the costly fallout could have been avoided had head coach Leigh Nugent acted immediately.

Then-president David Urquhart and chief executive Kevin Neil have broken their silence on the four investigations into swimming which cost at least $500,000, resulted in the loss of a $2 million annual sponsorship and public embarrassment for the six relay swimmers.

Urquhart and Neil both strongly reject claims from former head coach Leigh Nugent, who told the Australian Olympic Committee his bosses told him not to investigate the team behavioural issues.

They claim Nugent kept them in the dark until about six days into the competition and they ordered a review to provide transparency to an issue that had been covered up for two weeks.

”(On day six) Leigh told me that they just found out there was a bonding session and there was rumours some Stilnox may have been involved,” Neil told the Sunday Mail.

”It was nearly two weeks after it and I had the shits and I can’t work out – there was 45 swimmers and 30 staff – how come it took two weeks for me to be informed.”

Urquhart said he chastised Nugent for failing to act immediately, sparking a fallout that has only just reached a conclusion 13 months later.

”Of course, there wasn’t an attempted cover-up otherwise I wouldn’t have called the review,” Urquhart said.

“Nobody outside the camp area knew that anything had happened … Leigh dismissed it and didn’t do anything about it.

“I said,  ‘What have you done about it?’ He said, ‘Nothing. I was going to wait until we got back to Australia’. I said, ‘It should have been handled in Manchester, Leigh’. I then decided to call the review.

”For him to come out now and say he was told not to do anything about it is just ridiculous.

”I called the review because if that hadn’t happened then Swimming Australia would have been tarnished because the people in charge of those things did absolutely nothing about it.”

Nugent did not respond to a request for interview yesterday.

When News Corp Australia confronted Urquhart with the Stilnox allegations last September he denied any knowledge of an incident.

“When you asked me that question I hadn’t been told that, I said I was waiting for a report,” Urquart said.

”I hadn’t been told that there was Stilnox involved or anything like that. I was just told there was complaints … the Stilnox business came out afterwards.”

Neil quit last November and has an agreement which stipulates he can’t criticise the sport.

Urquhart said he had since been ”wiped” by the sport and his recommendations during the cultural review had been ignored.

He agreed the Stilnox fallout had been overkill and he attacked the way the swimmers were paraded for a televised confession in February.

”It was ridiculous, that was absolutely ridiculous,” Urquhart said of the press conference chaired by former president Barclay Nettlefold.

”That was just the president feeding his ego in front of the press,” he said.

”The swim team will only be stronger if Swimming Australia supports its stakeholders and that’s the states … to me they’re losing sight of what swimming is about.

”At this very moment it seems to me that the only important things are the people who are on the board and what they can get out of it and not necessarily for swimming.”

Urquhart added he was ”fuming” that coaches had been drinking during the Olympic Games and noted that no action was taken against those who broke the team rules which stipulate a “dry” environment.

”I’m sure it happened because one of the coaches admitted to me that, yes, he had a drink, and he was told when he made his first team it was OK provided that you kept it quiet,” he said.

“I was fuming when I heard that.”


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