Swimming-Australia governing body apologises for abuse, promises change

(Reuters) - Swimming Australia (SA) has apologised for its treatment of women and girls in the sport after the findings of an independent panel that looked into allegations of sexual misconduct made by double Olympic silver medallist Madeline Groves.

The report was commissioned last June after Groves pulled out of the Australian trials for the Tokyo Olympics, saying her withdrawal should be a lesson to "perverts... and their boot lickers" who exploit, body-shame and "medically gaslight" young women and girls.

Groves' explosive allegations led other swimmers to speak out, with former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jenny McMahon saying that the sport suffered from a "toxic and dysfunctional" culture.

The panel's report, released on Friday, listed 46 recommendations including doing away with skin-fold tests - a method to determine body fat percentage - and the term "physique".

"The term 'physique' has meaning and consequences, including over-valuing body shape and size in terms of their impact on performance," the panel said.

The panel, which gathered information from more than 150 participants, also urged SA to commit to "never again selecting an all-male team for national and international competitions", adding that a minimum number of women coaches must be included.

The report also addressed SA's complaints mechanism, recommending a character test be used when selecting coaches and support staff.

SA president Kieren Perkins said: "The Swimming Australia Board acknowledges the ultimate collective responsibility and commitment in addressing these recommendations."

"The (responsibility) rests with the Board and the Executive Team in delivering and committing to meaningful and enduring change, being transparent and regaining and earning the trust of our athletes and our entire community."

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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