By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, October 14. JUST months after sex charges were leveled, dismissed, then refiled against Australia's national women's team coach, Scott Volkers, Australian swimming has been rocked by new charges.
This time the accused was National Performance Director Greg Hodge, who was slapped with an interim apprehended violence order, or AVO — similar to a temporary restraining order in the US — by a former swimmer, Emma Fuller. The AVO prevents Hodge from contacting Fuller or being within 50 meters of her.
Rumors about the charges against Hodge have been whispered for months in Australian and international swimming circles, but they were made public in Australia on Sunday night on the TV show, "A Current Affair."
The television program aired claims by Fuller, who charged Hodge with "inappropriate behavior" during the mid-1990s when he was her coach.
Police issued the AVO ahead of a court hearing this month when Hodge will be accused of following Fuller in recent months.
"He had a sick obsession with me and I am bitter toward him in every way for what he has done," Fuller said. "He has followed me all the way home. I don't want him in my life."
Fuller claims to have documents relating to 50 incidents dating back to when she was 12, including a period when she lived with Hodge and his wife in their Sydney home while training.
"Look, I am sorry, this is totally news to me," Hodge said on camera in relation to allegations that he had recently followed Fuller.
"If this girl has . . . if I am supposed to be served with an AVO, then there is a legal process to follow. I will wait for the AVO and I will deal with it legally."
Later Hodge vigorously denied the allegations. Appearing on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) AM program, Hodge said he would fight the AVO application, arguing he had not followed Ms Fuller.
"I actually do business in that area, I bought my car from the Mercedes Benz dealer down the road from where her work was at the time," he said.
"I had no knowledge of where her company was or where she was working, it's just a pure bizarre set of circumstances that has been manipulated into this fanciful story."
"There is a court process and I will go through that process and defend the AVO and I will be doing everything possible to clear my reputation."
Australian swimming chief executive Glenn Tasker last night released a statement: "Australian Swimming, Inc. (ASI) has received a complaint from a former member of ASI.
"ASI takes these matters very seriously and places great emphasis on the safety and wellbeing of its members who participate in the sport.
"ASI has sought legal advice in relation to the complaint and will take the appropriate action in accordance with its internal procedures and policies."
The organization is holding a series of meetings this morning and is expected to announce its response to the allegations later today.
Last night former Queensland world champion Samantha Riley told the Brisbane Courier that she was uncomfortable with public allegations.
"I think people's reputations are at stake and I don't know if people should be named before they are found guilty," she said.
"Mud sticks. It is unfair for people to make claims public but that is more a reflection on the system more than anything else."
Former 1500m champion Daniel Kowalski was also uneasy: "I cringe for those involved. If it happened or did not happen, straight away people pick holes and we, the public, have no idea what really happened."