Australian Olympic swimmer Madeline Groves, who won two silver medals in the 2016 Rio Games, has pulled out of this weekend's trials for the 2021 Tokyo Games Australian swimming team, citing as her reason to not represent her country … well, read it for yourself:
Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers – You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus. Time’s UP https://t.co/XMQCRPjNzK
— Maddie Groves (@MaddieGroves_) June 9, 2021
In November of last year, Groves took to Twitter first to complain about an unnamed individual in swimming looking at her inappropriately:
— Maddie Groves (@MaddieGroves_) November 30, 2020
She followed this the next day with a complaint about an unnamed swimming coach making an inappropriate comment:
He came up to me like 15 minutes later and apologised, I think possibly cause the team psych told him to. Like dude I’m 20 please leave me alone and don’t make creepy comments to me when I’m just trying to be on the Australian Swim Team
— Maddie Groves (@MaddieGroves_) December 1, 2020
Swim Australia, which oversees competitive swimming in Australia, released a statement last December regarding Groves' complaints:
In response to those allegations, Swimming Australia said: “Swimming Australia reached out to Maddie in December 2020 to enquire about a tweet sent by her that referenced potential abuse by someone connected with swimming.
“Maddie declined to provide further information, nor do we have any previous complaints on record from Maddie.
“All allegations concerning child abuse or sexual misconduct are taken seriously by Swimming Australia. We consider the welfare, safety and wellbeing of children and young people as paramount, and we have a duty to make inquiries to uphold the standards of our sport.”
There are multiple angles to consider in such a matter.
First, is Groves telling the truth? While declining to name names is in and of itself not a sure indicator of proclaiming fiction as truth, it does raise the question of why Groves would put her fellow competitors in danger of inappropriate, or worse, behavior by whichever coach, trainer, or other authority figure or figures in the sport committed the offenses against her by allowing them to remain anonymous. It strongly puts Swim Australia in a difficult position of being led to believe there are individuals that, if guilty of the charges Groves has made against them, need to be expelled, or at the least reprimanded, for their behavior. How can Swim Australia do so while not knowing the accused parties' identities?
The next question concerns Groves herself. Certainly, it is understandable that any athlete wishes to be viewed as an athlete and be judged strictly on performance, not physical appearance. Yet Groves herself has shown no past unwillingness to use her looks to at the least gain attention. Why now, on the eve of qualifying for the Olympics, have a fine fun fabulous furry freak-out over people looking at you? What exactly does Groves think she is taking a stand against? As noted above, she has refused to identify those she has accused of inappropriate behavior. Now, and only now, this is an issue so insurmountable it demands she not attempt to qualify for the biggest sporting event on the planet, yet is not so grievous that she will not rule out competing later this year in events of vastly lesser significance? The lack of consistency is puzzling.
Let's look (no pun intended) at the uniforms worn in the Olympics. Have you ever seen what is worn in women's beach volleyball? Men's swimming and water polo? Compared to these get-ups, women's swimming outfits are early 20th century bloomers. It also bears mention that if you do not want members of the opposite sex looking at you, incessantly working at being an athlete, which for most people comes with the side effect of developing a lean and toned physique that since pretty much forever has been found to be easy on the eyes, might not be the best career path.
Of course women athletes should be treated as athletes with full respect. Of course anyone who attempts to violate this principle should be swiftly and firmly corrected in whatever manner is deemed appropriate. These are non-negotiable. Unfortunately, by making accusations without identification and then dropping out of representing her country in the Olympics, and at the last minute to boot, Madeline Groves has done neither herself nor the cause she claims to support any favors. If anything, she has provided further fuel to those who dismiss such claims out of hand. Nothing good can come of this.