SYDNEY, Australia, October 22. AN article published today in the Sydney Morning Herald features Olympian James Magnussen speaking publicly for the first time since allegations and media reports surfaced about a night of pranks that many believe led to Australia's disappointing performance at the London Olympics.
“Obviously what we did was silly,” Magnussen told Morning Herald reporter Chris Barrett. “We made mistakes. Would I do it again, in light of the repercussions? No, I wouldn't do it again but I certainly don't think it was as big of a deal as people made out. It was schoolboy stuff, it was nothing malicious, nobody was targeted, there was certainly no bullying or anything along those lines.”
Magnussen and the five other members of Australia's 400 freestyle relay — Matt Targett, James Roberts, Eamon Sullivan, Tommaso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy — came under fire when swimmers began speaking out about one night at the team's training camp in Manchester, England, where the sprinters prank-called various rooms and knocked on doors late at night. Targett admitted to the pranks last month, but denied claims that the relay members took the sleeping pill Stilnox. The pill is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances, but it was banned by Swimming Australia.
Magnussen went on to say he and his relay mates were viewed as “bullies,” thanks to their status as the Olympic favorites in the 400 free relay. The Aussies claimed the world championship title the previous year and were deemed locks for the gold medal. However, Australia found itself off the medal podium, finishing a surprising fourth behind France, the United States and Russia.
“I went out in that race chasing a world record and didn't stick to my race plan and didn't swim the race that I had envisioned,” he said of his subpar leadoff leg. “I think in the days leading up to that I really started feeling the pressure. I started losing sleep over it. I think it got to me. By the time I stepped up on the blocks for that relay I was pretty tired, and I think it showed.”
Additionally, the Australian men were unable to capture gold in London, as Magnussen finished second to Nathan Adrian in the 100 free by .01 seconds.
Magnussen also uses the article to deny that he felt like he didn't have to be a part of required team functions, including cheering for teammates when he was not competing.
“As far as not going out to watch the other swimmers, I swam on every night, bar two, and those two nights that I wasn't swimming I was in the crowd watching,” he said in the article. “I find it quite damning for people to say that when I felt I supported the team to the best of my abilities.”
The poor showing by the Aussies in the pool — as well as the allegations surrounding that night in Manchester — have sparked an independent review by a panel that includes Olympic legends Kieren Perkins and Petria Thomas. No timetable has been given on the release of the panel's findings, but they are now accepting confidential submissions from members of the team about their impressions of the Olympic trip.