Olympics-Swimming Australia to set up all-female panel to address issues after Groves' complaint

FILE PHOTO: Swimming - Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games - Women's 100m Butterfly Semifinal - Optus Aquatic Centre - Gold Coast, Australia - April 5, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

(Reuters) - Swimming Australia (SA) will set up an all-female independent panel to investigate issues related to the experience of women and girls in the sport following Madeline Groves' complaint of "misogynistic perverts", the governing body said on Saturday.

Twice Olympic silver medallist Groves withdrew from Australia's swimming trials for the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, saying her pull-out should be a lesson to "perverts ... and their boot lickers" who exploit, body-shame and "medically gaslight" young women and girls.

Following her complaint, SA urged Groves to engage with them, with President Kieran Perkins saying Groves' grievance was "very concerning" for the governing body, which has faced complaints of sexual abuse and bullying in the past.

In a statement released on Saturday, SA said they are "committed to keeping our people safe and well".

"This is a crucial week ahead of us, we know though these issues are too important to ignore," SA said. "They need to be addressed here and now.

"We will work with an independent female panel to investigate ongoing issues related to women and girls' experience and advancement in our sport. Their focus will be on our future."

Groves, who won silver in the 200 metres butterfly and 4x100 medley at the 2016 Rio Games, has previously complained of inappropriate behaviour by men involved in swimming.

She wrote on social media in December that she had made a complaint about a man who had ogled her in her bathing suit and made her feel uncomfortable.

She also said a male coach had made an inappropriate comment to her before apologising.

In 2015, an Australian government inquiry found SA had failed to screen a senior coach with historical allegations of child sexual abuse when appointing him to a position and also failed to conduct an internal investigation into historical allegations against another Olympic coach.

An independent review in 2013 into Australia's performance in the pool at the 2012 London Olympics found slack management had enabled a "culturally toxic" environment, allowing bullying, alcohol and prescription drug abuse among swimmers to go unchecked. A number of senior officials resigned after that review.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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