By Stephen J. Thomas
BRISBANE, Australia, Sept. 21. AUSTRALIAN coach Scott Volkers could receive compensation for his ordeal of the last five months, Australian officials said today.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said the Government is considering a compensation for damages done to the Queensland swimming coach, now that sexual charges against him had been dropped. The funds would help compensate Volker's legal costs.
Volkers has sold his story exclusively to television Network Seven and has taken a holiday in Bali with his family.
Distance freestyle legend, Queensland-born Kieren Perkins, said of Volker's acquittal, "there is always going to be an element of the accusation that will always stick, his public image will never recover 100%." Speaking on Australian television, Perkins said he supported Volkers' bid for the position as Australian head women's coach.
Former world champion Tracey Wickham spoke out on ABC Radio this week after Volkers was cleared of charges that he inappropriately touched three young female swimmers under his charge in the 1980s. Wickham held the world record for the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyle. Her 400-meter time, set in Berlin in 1978, still stands as the Australian record today and would have taken silver at the Sydney Olympics.
"He wasn't guilty from the word go," Wickham told ABC Radio's World Today program.
"If you look at charges that were laid upon him for the allegations that were against him, you could probably put every coach in Australia, no matter what sport, up for assault charges as well."
Asked if she had ever come across an incident that could be construed as assault, Wickham said: "Oh, for sure, absolutely heaps of times. The amount of times my coaches, particularly Bill Sweetenham and Laurie Lawrence, would have come up to me and given me a big hug and kiss, and just you know … they used to massage us all the time – and I mean top to toe – before our races and all that sort of thing.
"But it was purely that in those days, we had no masseurs – that's just what our coach, or one of the parents might do for us. What are we going to do, turn around and say he massaged us too close to our breasts or too close to our bottom and we felt uneasy?
"It's ridiculous. Those sorts of things can happen. And I feel sorry for them [the coaches] these days."
Wickham said "anyone who has coached the way Scott (Volkers) has, to the heights that he has, would all be scared because they've all been doing the same thing. They would all be thinking, 'Who is going to come back at me from ten years ago?'"