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

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.”



A guide for swimmers breaking boundaries

Lynne Cox 1

Lynne Cox has spent more than four decades swimming past the known limits of human capacity. Driven by an explorer’s voracious desire to do what has never been done, and frankly obsessive about mental and physical preparation, she has completed scores of pioneering swims, most famously the frigid Bering Strait in just a suit, cap and goggles.

Now she has channeled her vast expertise on the dangers, joys and logistics of open water swimming into a new book aimed at the exploding ranks of triathletes and other swimmers who are escaping the safe confines of pools.

The book, “Open Water Swimming Manual: An Expert’s Survival Guide for Triathletes and Open Water Swimmers” (Vintage, $15.95), brings together research and advice from a range of experts, including marine biologists, meteorologists, hypothermia scientists, emergency medical teams and even the famously secretive Navy SEALs. She weaves in details and cautionary advice relating to her own swims and those of others, like Steve Irwin, the Australian environmentalist television star, who died while swimming at the Great Barrier Reef when a stingray stung his chest. (“Applying acid, such as orange juice, urine, or vinegar, does not have any effect on the sting.”) A boy’s plunge into a freshwater lake in Finland results in an ear infection, which it turns out was caused by algae growing in his ears. (“Earplugs might have helped.”)

The publication could hardly be better timed. A steep rise in the popularity of triathlons has been swelling the ranks of open water events. Some 1,100 people dashed into the surf off Los Angeles in early August for the two-mile Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim, up from 586 in 2000. In New York, more than 200 swam around Governors Island and some 70 people circumnavigated Manhattan in relays this summer.

But Ms. Cox, 56, knows something many of them may not grasp. Venturing into wild water is a high-risk endeavor. The exertion can be intense. The environment – a confluence of wind, waves, sun, creatures and self — is unpredictable. Swimmers can inhale too much water, lose too much body heat, overheat, underhydrate, become disoriented. Exiting an ocean swim through surf can subject the swimmer to a maddening swirl of currents and bone-breaking beatings from crashing waves. These situations, she relates firmly, can be life-threatening.

This summer, a 34-year-old British woman, Susan Taylor, died after collapsing near the end of the 21-mile crossing from England to France. In 2010, a 26-year-old Pennsylvania man, Fran Crippen, died near the finish of a 10-kilometer swim in the warm waters off the United Arab Republic.

So Ms. Cox, the product of an artist mother and a father who was a Marine, tempers vision and enthusiasm with methodical, unstinting effort.

“I could think that I could do it, and that’s a great way to help prepare,” she said at a recent lunchtime talk at Google’s New York headquarters. “But if I don’t physically train to do it, then mentally I’m not prepared to do it, and physically and mentally I can’t do it.”

So she includes training advice for beginner, intermediate and advanced swimmers, starting with “shorter” swims of one to three miles and beefing up the miles and intensity for those aiming at the Catalina channel or the Strait of Magellan.

What makes for a trusty crew for distance events? One crucial factor: there must be one person in charge at all times, though the role can be serially occupied. If a swimmer is in jeopardy, whether from the perilous water conditions, physical exhaustion or threatening critters, there must be no arguing among the crew over what to do.

Almost 30 pages are devoted to marine organisms to look out for, including what to do if a swimmer is afflicted by jellyfish, stingrays or tiny irritants that cause so-called seabather’s eruption.

Sharks get their own chapter. Good advice: Be careful what you wear. If swimming near seals or sea lions, don’t wear a black suit, or a predator might mistake you for dinner. Jewelry or metallic swimsuits can attract sharks, too.

The book also includes the Navy SEALs’ five-page Risk Assessment Worksheet, which rates the likelihood and effects of 14 hazards, among them “swimmer-induced pulmonary edema” (seldom, critical) and even “ambulance stuck in sand” (seldom, catastrophic). Part of the point is real safety, and part is clearing the mind, she said. “If you think about the energy you use being anxious,” she said, “just think about how much faster you could be in your race!”

You don’t have to know Ms. Cox long to discover that she relishes  her time in the water, and even the moments of danger. In the opening chapter of the manual, a paean to outdoor immersion, she writes of “water song,” the music of breath, body, wind and waves.

And she offers a benediction, elegant in its simplicity, to readers who take up the challenge to leave water within walls and head out into the unknown.

“For many of you, the open water will become a haven, a favorite place to visit, and many of you will discover that no matter where you are in the world, it will always be a place where you feel at home.”



No further punishment for swimmers

Aussie relay 1

A group of Olympic swimmers who took sleeping drugs and “pranked” their female colleagues in a bonding ritual ahead of the London games have avoided further punishment from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

The AOC said the fines handed to the six members of the men’s relay team, including newly-crowned world champion James Magnussen, by Swimming Australia were “proportionate and sufficient.”

But AOC boss John Coates warned any further conduct which brings swimming into disrepute will result in them being banned from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“This is the yellow card,” Coates told reporters in Sydney.

The exact amount of the fines handed out to Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Roberts, Tommaso D’Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy is confidential but Coates says they were docked a percentage of their athlete support payments.

McEvoy and Magnussen were hit with a fine of 50 per cent, while the others had to hand over 25 per cent of their payments.

“The AOC considers that the financial sanction imposed by Swimming Australia is proportionate and sufficient in respect of each of those swimmers,” Coates said.

Coates said the swimmers had been under the “misapprehension” they could take Stillnox at a bonding camp in Manchester nine days before they were to compete.

But the AOC considered the “boorish, selfish, obnoxious and disrespectful” behaviour of the swimmers towards female team members a serious matter, he said.

“It upset the female swimmers… and it certainly affected moral at the time,” the AOC report said.

The report also found the men liable for the cost of the investigation and report, estimated to be about $150,000.

But they will not have to repay the money unless they’re caught breaking the rules again and banned from the Rio Games.


Tips for improving nutrition and reducing your times

Health Foods 1

Want to shave 1.82 seconds off your 100-meter free? How about 7.93 seconds off your 200 IM?

David (not his real name), a 16-year old swimmer did just that by improving his food choices to support his training and conditioning. He dramatically slashed his times after committing to improving his food choices in the months leading up to a national-level meet.

His reward? His best times…ever.

How did he do it? He completed a detailed 3-day food and activity record and then had it analyzed by a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist who individualized a plan to build on his already good habits. Like many of you, David already practiced sound dietary habits: he ate before swim practice, he timed his intake to support recovery, he ate high-quality protein, and he got sufficient calcium and vitamin D through foods.

What he needed to tweak in his diet was:

  • Increasing total calorie intake. He was averaging 70-85% of the needed calories to support growth, physical development and training
  • Increasing carbohydrate intake. He was getting 44% of his calories or 6.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight and he needed 6-8 grams per kilogram to support training, so he increased carb intake to the higher end of the range
  • Decreasing total fat intake. His fat intake was 35% of total calories and while the recommendation is to keep fat intake in the range of 25-35%, an athlete who needs more carbohydrate will need to decrease fat intake to accommodate the need for muscle fueling carbs.
  • Choosing more nutrient-rich foods to increase the intake of 2 nutrients that were low in his diet: vitamin E and iron.

David used these 4 simple strategies to boost his nutrition:

  • Increased fruit and veggie intake to boost carbohydrate intake
    • Added a fruit cup to morning after-practice swim snack
    • Added an apple, pear, orange, etc. to lunch
    • Added an additional vegetable to dinner like a baked sweet potato, green beans, cauliflower, or any other veggie he liked.
    • Snacked on summer fruits: watermelon, cantaloupe, berries
    • Topped his favorite dessert, pound cake, with berries
  • Chose more iron-rich foods
    • Substituted corn dogs with a roast beef sandwich or a small cheeseburger
    • Ate dark-meat chicken (leg, thigh) in addition to chicken breast
    • Included a vitamin C source with breakfast, like orange juice, strawberries, or other citrus fruit, like “cuties”
    • Tried grilled flank steak for dinner. It’s a lean cut of beef with plenty of iron
  • Decreased high-fat foods
    • Tried lower fat ice cream instead of full-fat ice cream
    • Substituted low-fat hot dogs for full-fat hot dogs
    • Reduced milk fat from 2% milk to 1% or fat-free milk
  • Increased calories with healthy, tasty foods
    • Snacked on nuts and trail mix (good source of vitamin E)
    • Ate pineapple (contributed with love from his aunt’s own pineapple tree)
    • Increased sports drink from 8-oz to 12-16 ounces
    • Snacked on cottage cheese and fruit with whole grain crackers
    • Drizzled vanilla Greek yogurt with honey and added chopped walnuts

It wasn’t always easy, as David said sometimes he just wasn’t hungry, and it was hard to reach the higher calorie level. But, improving nutrition paid off and now he is on a quest to improve his standing at his state meet. Last year he finished 25th in the 100 and 200 free and the top 24 finishers move on… This year I think he will one of the swimmers moving on.


Chris Rosenbloom is the sports nutrition consultant for Georgia State University Athletics and is the editor of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Sports Nutrition Manual, 5th edition, 2012. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents and coaches. Email her at



Trent Grimsey retires from competitive swimming

Trent Grimsey

Trent Grimsey

English Channel world record holder Trent Grimsey has announced his retirement from elite open water swimming. 

Over his eight year career, Grimsey made his mark on open water swimming both in Australian and overseas.   

As an open water swimmer Grimsey was the 2012 FINA Grand Prix Champion and broke the world record for the fastest English Channel crossing just last year. 

“I have met some amazing people and made friends that I’ll have for life,” said Grimsey. 

“I’d like to thank everyone who helped me throughout my career, no matter how big or small.” 

“Above all I’d like to thank my parents for sacrificing so much so I could chase my dream.” 

Grimsey is now focusing on a new chapter in his life with his brother 2011 5km Open Water National Champion Codie Grimsey and has established Grimsey’s Adult Swimfit. 

The duo are combining their wealth of experience and knowledge to coach adults training for open water events through on water sessions and training plans. 

“I’m really excited about starting this new chapter in my life,” said Grimsey. 

Swimming Australia  and the entire open water swimming fraternity wishes Trent Grimsey all the best in his future endeavours and would like to thank him for his contribution to open water swimming.

 Trent Grimsey 

Date of Birth: 04/05/1988
Club: Lawnton Swim Club Inc
Nickname: Trento
Coach: Harley Connolly
Main Event: 5km, 10km 

Career Highlights 

  • World record holder for the fastest English Channel crossing just last year
  • 2012 FINA Grand Prix Champion
  • Three time Australian Open Water Champion
  • Three time King of the Sea Champion
  • Silver medallist in the 25km at 2009 World Championships
  • Won the 2008 RCP Tiburon Mile


Crockart claims Commonwealth record

Laura Crockart (ausswim)

Laura Crockart (ausswim)

Laura Crockart has successfully defended her 1500m freestyle title on the opening night of the 2013 Australian Short Course Swimming Championships and at the same time broken a Commonwealth record.

The 18-year-old from Sydney, hit the wall in a time of 15:45.89 taking close to six seconds off the previous Commonwealth record set by Rebecca Crooke of Great Britain in 2009.

The swim was a further 12 seconds quicker than the previous best by an Australian, bettering the old Aussie mark of 15:58.61, set by Stacey Gartrell in 1992.

Fresh from a gold medal in the same event over at the US Open in California earlier this month, Crockart said dropping a massive 22 seconds off her PB long course, gave her plenty of confidence for tonight.

“It’s really exciting. I knew what the record was and I kind of really wasn’t going for it, but it was a really good swim and I’m just really stoked,” said Crockart.

“I thought I would go under 16 minutes today but not by that much. To go 15:45 is pretty awesome and my 800m tomorrow is looking good now, and hopefully only good things to come from here.”

Crockart led for the majority of the race to finish in front of world championship team member Chelsea Gubecka (15:54.69) and Sacha Downing (16.11.88), who finished second and third respectively.

Gubecka, fresh from representing Australia in Barcelona in the 10km open water swim and 1500m freestyle, continued her strong form with her personal best time of 15:54.69 also under the previous Australian record time of 15:58.61.

In the other event of the evening, Mitchell Davenport-Wright won the 800m freestyle final in a time of 8:02.82. The Victorian who finished thirdin the same event in 2012, held off Jacob Hansford (8:03.31) and Dylan Warren (8:05.41).

The Australian Short Course Swimming Championships will be held at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre from 23 – 25 August.



The towering face of French swimming

Yannick Agnel after winning the 200-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships. ‘‘To be an Olympic and world champion is something really special,’’ he said. (Josep Lago/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Yannick Agnel after winning the 200-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships. ‘‘To be an Olympic and world champion is something really special,’’ he said. (Josep Lago/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

It seemed inevitable heading into the final that the U.S. team featuring Ryan Lochte would win the 4×100 freestyle relay on the first day of the swimming events at the World Aquatics Championships. And up until the 300-meter mark in Barcelona, the U.S. squad was leading the pack, followed by Russia and Australia. France was a distant fourth.

Watching on the sideline was Yannick Agnel, the 21-year-old French sensation, who swam the first leg of the final in late July. He saw his friend Jérémy Stravius complete the final 100 meters with such speed that France won the gold, relegating the United States to silver and Russia to bronze.

For Agnel, the current world-record holder in the 400 short-course freestyle and a three-time Olympic medalist (two golds), the results in Barcelona were a flashback to the 2012 Games in London, when France scored an upset to win gold in the 4×100 relay.

In London, the U.S. team had another weapon, this one by the name of Michael Phelps. The underdog French team beat a champion team to win the gold at the Games, and it was Agnel’s final rush that sealed the deal.

“To be an Olympic and world champion is something really special,” Agnel said in a telephone interview. “However, I don’t want to stop here.”

And to push himself further, Agnel has hired Phelps’s former coach, Bob Bowman. The results have worked so far for the man that many regard as the new face of French swimming.

Agnel is not just the world 4×100 relay champion; he won the 200-meter freestyle at Barcelona with ease, finishing almost a second ahead of the silver medalist, Conor Dwyer of the United States.

That result, too, was a repeat of the London Olympics, where Agnel won the 200 with an even faster time. Lochte, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, was fourth on both occasions.

In a sense, Agnel, who was named after the tennis great Yannick Noah, is leading a renaissance in French swimming. He is the European record holder for the 800-meter freestyle short course event and was voted European Swimmer of the Year in 2012 by Swimming World magazine.

The Frenchman’s swimming is characterized by long strokes, thanks to his towering height of 2.03 meters, or 6 feet, 8 inches. Because of his exploits in the pool, and the subsequent media attention, it is not unnatural for fans to compare him to Phelps and Lochte. But he shrugs them off.

“I am Yannick Agnel,” he said. “I am neither Lochte nor Phelps. I don’t swim as much as Lochte does. Those two are phenomenal swimmers. They are Olympic legends. While I am happy I did well against some all-time swimming greats, I cannot compare myself to them.”

Statistics back up his opinion. Phelps has won a world-record 18 gold medals and 22 over all at the Olympics, while Lochte has 11 over all. Agnel has age on his side, so he could approach Lochte’s mark, though Phelps’s seems unreachable. Both Phelps and Lochte made their Olympic debuts in 2004, while Agnel did so in 2012. Phelps has retired from the sport, and Lochte is 29, almost a senior citizen in swimming. Agnel is 8 years younger.

Phelps often gave his coach, Bowman, a lot of credit for his success, and now Agnel is learning from Bowman’s guidance, too. And while the decision to train with an American coach generated some criticism in France, Agnel contends it is the right thing to do. “The Barcelona results have shown it was the right decision,” he said, “something I was sure about right from the beginning.”

Bowman sees a lot of similarity between Phelps and Agnel. “They are very similar, particularly in the way they approach competition and training from a mental standpoint,” Bowman said in a telephone interview. “They are very strong mentally. They know exactly how much energy to put into a certain swim depending on how important it is. They both have immense physical talent. The mental aspect is where they are most alike.”

Bowman believes Agnel’s main challenge now is to deal with outside expectations. “That’s because he has done so well at such a young age. People sometimes tend to go backwards when they give attention to what other people think they should do. Yannick, though, has a very clear picture on what his goals are and how to achieve them,” Bowman said.

Agnel said Bowman’s coaching style is different from what he had been used to. “We do about the same mileage per day as I used to do in France,” he said. “But his technique and approach are really different. I am doing lot of other strokes. It’s really intense compared to what I used to do in France. We will see how the results turn up in the next season. At the moment, I am having fun.”

One of Agnel’s objectives in teaming up with Bowman is to expand his repertoire and do well in the 100, 200 and 400 freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Bowman thinks Agnel can excel in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle events. “He has the physical skills. He just needs to put in some more training for the 400. For the 100-meter freestyle, he needs to be more experienced and add some muscle so that he has the power to compete against the best swimmers in this event,” Bowman said.

Agnel said he was aware of his impact on French swimming; he was the first from his country to win more than one gold medal in the same Olympics.

“An entire new generation of French swimmers is doing well,” Agnel said. “We train really hard by putting in lots of kilometers in our practice sessions. I hope the French are proud of what we are doing.

“I see a lot children getting attracted to competitive swimming,” he continued. “I hope more people discover that though there’s a lot of hard work involved, it is a really fun sport.”

Swimming, though, is not the 21-year-old’s sole focus. He is taking a correspondence course in economics and political science at the Paris Institute of Political Science.

“I am interested in learning new things, be it economics, math or science,” Agnel said. “This attitude has played a big role in my success in the swimming pool. I don’t swim for nothing. I always like to learn and try new moves, get new sensations.”



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