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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 09:26 GMT
Pickering slams Sweetenham result
Bill Sweetenham

British swimming star Karen Pickering has voiced her dissatisfaction with the inquiry that cleared performance director Bill Sweetenham of bullying.

Ipswich's Commonwealth gold medallist claimed the investigation was "a pointless exercise" and said it should have had a wider brief.

But British Swimming boss David Sparkes said the 55-year-old Australian is the right man for the job.

And Sparkes gave him the green light to lead Britain into the 2008 Olympics.

Sweetenham denied claims that he treated his charges badly and was exonerated following an independent inquiry set up in the wake of allegations made by The Times newspaper last August.

But the investigation, conducted by retired policeman Bill Roberts, indicated the Queenslander still has several questions to answer about his style of coaching.

Karen Pickering
I've been shouted at until I've been in tears
Karen Pickering

Pickering, who won 200m gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games, was one of a number of senior swimmers who retired after the Athens Olympics and have since criticised the coach.

"I'm not surprised the findings have come up in his favour," Pickering told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"But it does not take away from the fact there have been many problems.

"When I had my interview with the gentleman conducting the inquiry I felt then it was a pretty pointless exercise.

"All the problems and issues I had raised weren't covered at all.

"There have been a lot of incidents, a lot of times when the way he's spoken to swimmers has been inappropriate.

"I've been shouted at until I've been in tears but we have been unable to argue our points because when the threat of [losing] funding is over your head we have had no choice but to follow.

It would be fair to say that some of the more senior swimmers found some of Bill's methods and approaches quite challenging
David Sparkes

"I understand that British swimming had to act - when you're getting into the area of bullying you're looking at child protection, but it should have been much broader than that.

"The majority of swimmers want to be in an environment that is happy. It is a hard sport and you have to be able to enjoy it."

Mark Foster, the world 50m freestyle short course champion, told The Times on Wednesday that if he was a young swimmer he would change nationality.

And he expressed his opinion that Sweetenham was "a bully - no ifs or buts".

Sparkes has revealed he will meet Sweetenham when he returns to England later this month but does not believe there is a need for a major shake-up.

"Bill is our head coach and he is the man who is masterminding the way we prepare for Beijing," said Sparkes.

"The vast majority of the current swimmers are very supportive of Bill and his methods.

"And a significant majority of the younger coaches and younger swimmers are supportive of Bill.

"It would be fair to say that some of the more senior swimmers found some of Bill's methods and approaches quite challenging.

"That is understandable because Bill has created a lot of change. But we've got to keep changing and moving forward otherwise we won't get to where we want to get to in 2012."

Report: Sweetenham cleared of bullying

Interview: Jaime King

Interview: Former British swimmer Karen Pickering

Sweetenham is cleared of bullying
04 Jan 06 |  Swimming
Sweetenham to work with coaches
21 Mar 05 |  Swimming
Sweetenham to focus on coaching
10 Nov 04 |  Other Sport...
Foster makes point to Sweetenham
12 Oct 04 |  Other Sport...
GB boss defends swimmers
22 Aug 04 |  Swimming
Tough-guy coach with golden touch
28 Jul 03 |  Olympics 2004

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