CANBERRA, Australia, December 12. GREG Hodge, Australian Swimming's National High Performance Director, has stepped down from his post "for the
good of the Australian team," according to a story in the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
Hodge made his "selfless" decision to take an extended leave from his position, allowing the Australian Swimming board to replace him late yesterday with national youth coach, Leigh Nugent.
Hodge's decision comes amid allegations by former swimmer Emma Fuller, 20, who accused Hodge of stalking her on national television. She said she plans to seek an Apprehended Violence Order (equivalent of a restraining order in the U.S.) against Hodge in February.
Hodge, who has vehemently denied the accusations made against him by Fuller, is suing the Nine Network over the allegations, which included claims he inappropriately touched and kissed Fuller when she was a 12-year-old boarder at his home in the mid-1990s.
As a result of the allegations, Coach Hodge had been banned from any contact with athletes and coaches until the case was resolved, making it virtually impossible for him to do his job.
"Given that the legal issues are continuing and appear unlikely to be resolved until well into the New Year, I believe it is best that the athletes and coaches concentrate on the preparation for the Olympic trials in March and then the August Games without the distractions surrounding my case," Hodge said in a statement last night.
"I have said since the matter was first raised on television that it needed to be dealt with quickly to prevent a detrimental effect on the team's performance. It can't go on."
Hodge said Australian Swimming had granted him leave on full pay until his legal issues had been resolved.
"This has been a difficult and emotional decision to go on leave and become a spectator," Hodge said, "but it's best for everyone."
Australian Swimming's chief executive Glenn Tasker said he was not shocked by Hodge's decision. "He's basically done it for the good of the Australian swim team," Tasker said.
In the past two years, Australian Swimming has been racked by accusations against some of the nation's top coaches. All three senior national coaches have been under a cloud with head men's coach Brian Sutton embroiled in controversy during the Barcelona World Championships in July when he was suspended for arriving 24 hours late to a training camp.
Head women's coach Scott Volkers has faced continuing controversy over "indecent dealing" charges from 20 years ago, which were dropped by the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions last year on the basis there was no real prospect of obtaining a conviction.