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Swim England chief "truly sorry" amid bullying, abuse allegations

Swim England chief
© Reuters
Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson is "truly sorry" that athletes suffered emotional abuse and bullying at the hands of coaches.

Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson has issued a heartfelt apology to athletes who have been subjected to alleged abuse and bullying by coaches in the sport.

Over the past couple of weeks, the BBC has been inundated with claims of emotional abuse against coaches, who have been accused of fat-shaming, bullying and forcing athletes to train on injuries.

Former high-level competitors - including ex-Commonwealth youth champion Phoebe Lenderyou - have spoken of their struggles with eating disorders as a result of the abuse, which also included weigh-ins and humiliation tactics.

Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Cassie Patten also detailed how she would make herself sick before being weighed, and the abuse made her 'hate' the sport before she retired aged 24 in 2011.

In response to the harrowing allegations, Swim England have announced a new Heart of Aquatics plan to improve safeguarding and welfare, and Nickerson - who will retire in December - claimed that she was "truly sorry" for the abuse.

"We have a zero tolerance approach to poor behaviour but we have to be open and recognise that sadly not everyone has had the positive experience we would expect from participation in our sports. For that I am truly sorry," Nickerson said in a statement.

"If we are to be successful in this cultural change journey then we need everyone in aquatics, in any role at any level, to commit to collectively doing everything we possibly can to deliver the positive, safe, welcoming environment and culture that we all want to see.

"That change must start with us and everyone at Swim England is committed to playing our role in making this a success for the benefit of everyone."

Allegations against swimming coaches follow last year's Whyte Review into British Gymnastics, which found a "systemic" culture of emotional and physical abuse within the sport.

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ParalympicsGB swimmer Abby Kane in action during the women's 400m freestyle S13 final in Rio de Janeiro on September 12, 2016
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