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Top Aussie Coach Charged with Sexual Assault on a Minor -- October 5, 2005

By Phillip Whitten and Stephen J. Thomas

MELBOURNE, October 5. MARK Thompson, the longtime coach of Australian Olympic medalist Brooke Hanson, was questioned by police last night and arraigned in Melbourne Magistrates Court this morning, according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Channel 9.

He was charged with three counts of sexual assault, including sexual penetration with a child between 10 and 16 years of age, and committing an indecent act with a child under 16 years, according to Victoria police spokeswoman Sheree Argento.

The alleged victim is believed to be a boy and the allegations date back to 1998.

The charges against Thompson, 36, are the latest in a long string of allegations of sexual impropriety on the part of Australian swimming coaches, but they have shocked and saddened the Australian swimming community. Glenn Tasker, Swimming Australia’s Executive Director, told the Australian Associated Press today that his organization is in the process of trying to find out more about the allegations.

"These are serious allegations and we take them very seriously. We will not be making any rushed decisions but doing what research we have to do."

Thompson, recently honored as the 2005 Australian Coach of the Year, has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Nunawading Swimming Centre, where he is head coach. The centre did not comment on whether or when Thompson might return.

Coach Thompson was granted bail today but must appear at the Melbourne Magistrate's court on January 17, one week before the Aussie Commonwealth Games Trials.

In a written statement, Brooke Hanson said she had been instructed not to make any comment, however she intends to continue training at Nunawading.