Australian officials probe Olympic prank claims
SYDNEY - Australian swimming boss Kevin Neil vowed an investigation Sunday into reports of pranks, ill-discipline, and an initiation ritual involving sedatives among the London Games squad.
The sport is undergoing an independent review after Australia won just one gold medal, six silver and three bronze at the Olympics -- its lowest tally in the pool since Barcelona 1992.
Recent reports have suggested some members of the much-vaunted but ultimately unsuccessful six-man freestyle relay team had an initiation ritual days before the Games that involved taking the banned sedative Stilnox.
There have also been claims of swimmers upsetting teammates and coaches by prank calling and knocking on their doors late at night at their camp in Manchester, two days before the team went to London.
Neil said the claims would be fully investigated as part of the review and he could "guarantee we'll get to the bottom of it", warning that swimmers faced expulsion from the squad if the Stilnox allegations were true.
Australian team officials banned London Games athletes from using Stilnox, a powerful sleeping tablet with sometimes dangerous side-effects, which can include walking and driving cars while asleep.
"If proven, a judiciary process needs to be adhered to," Neil told News Limited newspapers of the Stilnox claims.
"(The judiciary) have the power to do all sorts of things -- cease membership, disqualify (athletes)."
Neil accepted responsibility for Australia's poor showing, its first Olympics without an individual swimming gold since 1976.
But he said there had been a "real downturn over some time" in Australia's swimming ranks.
"In 2006, no individual male won a medal at the Commonwealth Games, no individual male won gold at the Beijing Olympics," he said.
"In 2010 at the World Championships not one of our swimmers was ranked number one in the world."
Prior to 2008 Neil said funding was focused on the high-performance programme rather than discovering and fostering new talent and there had "obviously been a lag from that".
"We've rectified that situation with more funding now going to junior development. We've now got a very good talent identification programme," he said.
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