Could Pranks by Relay Team Have Affected Aussie Performance in London?

PHOENIX, Arizona, September 12. WITH Swimming Australia under review after its athletes performed below expectations at the London Olympics, one of the topics the independent panel is reportedly investigating is the effect an unusual team bonding experience had on overall performance.

An article published today in The Australian suggests that the six swimmers in the men's 400 freestyle relay — James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Roberts, Tommaso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy — participated in a special initiation ritual at the team training camp in Manchester in which the six took a sleeping pill called Stilnox. After taking the pill, the article says, the six proceeded to pull pranks on other members of the Australian swim team late that evening by calling them and knocking on doors. The Australian article does not cite sources, only to say that the information comes from those associated with the team during the Olympics and at the training camp.

Additionally, Stilnox was banned from use by the swimmers during team training and competition, but is not a banned substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list.

The acts of the six swimmers were overlooked by the team officials, including head coach Leigh Nugent, the article says. Nugent would not comment on the allegations of misconduct, wishing to hold comment until the results of the review panel were published.

Targett did comment on the evening in question, telling writer Nicole Jeffrey: “The prank calls did happen but we weren't under the influence of anything.” None of the members of the relay team admitted to taking Stilnox.

The Australians only won one gold medal in London, in the women's 400 freestyle relay. The men's 400 free relay, which is the reigning world champion, failed to win a medal in London, placing fourth behind France, the United States and Russia.

Swimming Australia has called for an independent review of performance in London, and that review has begun, according to The Australian. Tim Ford, a former member of the Australian national team, is part of the panel. Two-time Olympic champion Kieren Perkins is also part of the review panel.

Other allegations members of the swim team mentioned in the article include other incidents of pranks and bullying throughout the Olympics and a lack of team bonding during the competition, in which those who were done swimming failed to support their teammates who were still competing.

Full text of article in The Australian (May require registration to view)

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