Families put through years of turmoil, says Paralympic champion's father

From BBC - October 12, 2017

The father of a two-time Paralympic gold medallist says families have been put through "years of turmoil" by the "climate of fear" at British Swimming.

An independent inquiry into complaints of bullying made by 13 Para-swimmers found they and their families faced "unacceptable behaviours".

Carson Russell, whose 21-year-old daughter Hannah was among the athletes who complained, said it had been a "very challenging" time.

He said solutions must now be found.

"It is disappointing when you have to listen to your daughter on the end of the phone who is upset and fearful at the way she's being managed, and that is a big concern," he told BBC Sport's Patrick Nathanson.

"I am aware that other families have been through a lot of turmoil, a lot of distress over the last two or three years. It's very challenging for parents and athletes who might be in a new environment for them so they are unsure what best practice looks like.

"As a parent, you want you child to be in a rewarding environment, that's how you get the best out of athletes - but if they are pushed too far, that can slide away, and I believe that's what's happened, and that then did become a climate of fear that people could not operate in properly."

British swimming's governing body said an unnamed member of staff - understood to be former head coach Rob Greenwood - was found to have been "communicating with athletes in an abusive manner, as well as using derogatory terms to describe athletes".

Greenwood left his job before the investigation began, and it is not known whether he disputes the allegations.

When contacted by the BBC, he declined to comment.

A second member of staff, whose management and communication was criticised and who "acknowledged mistakes", has faced disciplinary action, but remains in post at the Manchester-based organisation.

"In the pursuit of excellence, we recognise there have been failings in the culture and communication within British Para-swimming" said Maurice Watkins, chairman of the national governing body.

'The most important thing is to find solutions'

Carson Russell said striving for medals must be balanced with the welfare and safety of athletes.

"The pursuit of medals is integral to athletes getting up every day, driving themselves forward - it's what elite sport is all about," he said.


Athlete welfare in the spotlight


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