LONDON, September 22. ONE day after British Swimming announced an inquiry into bullying allegations against Bill Sweetenham, the National Performance Director has welcomed an investigation. Actually, Sweetenham asked for an official investigation after the allegations were first reported in The London Times last month.
Sweetenham was accused of bringing a poisonous atmosphere to British swimming and blamed for a bevy of retirements. However, Sweetenham has also received support, particularly from David Davies, the Olympic bronze medalist in the 1,500 freestyle. One of the most vocal swimmers against Sweetenham has been Mark Foster, a multiple Olympian. Foster was unable to record the demanding qualifying times required of Sweetenham for the 2004 Olympic Games and has been critical of his reign.
"I wanted them to do it, I don't want that sort of stuff hanging over me," Sweetenham told journalist Paul Mulvey. "The support I've had from swimmers, coaches and parents has been unbelievable, and it happened immediately. Everyone understands what it is.
"I don't make excuses, I set high standards and I expect high standards and if that's bullying, then so be it. I've been a coach in Australia for 30 years without a problem. I told British Swimming if they think I'm too hard, tap me on the shoulder. "If they said to me tomorrow 'Bill, you're too demanding', I'd be gone in an instant."
British Swimming has been supportive of Sweetenham and has launched its inquiry because of the allegations that appeared in the newspaper. The former Australian head coach, Sweetenham has a contract to guide British Swimming through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"In keeping with swimming's policy of openness, we are undertaking an independent investigation with a view to determining the facts and any issues we need to address," said British Swimming chief executive David Sparkes in a statement.