Leigh Nugent has offered his resignation as Swimming Australia head coach, paying the price for a disastrous Olympic campaign where a poor medal return was compounded by allegations of ill-discipline in the team. In a brief statement on Wednesday, Swimming Australia said that Nugent had told them last week he wanted to step down from the post and that his resignation was 'still a matter of negotiation'.
"Leigh actually approached us to discuss his future and where he would best fit into the new structure of the High Performance Unit," Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold said in the statement. In those discussions it soon became very clear that while he still wanted to remain involved in the sport, he didn't want to continue in the position of head coach."
Nettlefold said that an interim head coach would be appointed in coming weeks ahead of the April 26-May 3 Australian Championships in Adelaide. Nugent, who oversaw Australia's second-best Olympic medals haul at the 2004 Athens Games, was named head coach in 2009, but after Australia brought home only one gold medal from the London Games pool, their worst tally in 20 years, his position became vulnerable.
Recent reviews painted the picture of a "toxic" team environment where five Australian swimmers took Stilnox in a 'bonding session' in the leadup to London despite the sedative being banned by the Australian Olympic Committee. A number of female team members, including Olympic backstroke silver medallist Emily Seebohm, told local media they had complained to Nugent of harassment by their male counterparts at a pre-games training camp, but their complaints were not taken seriously.
Nugent's contract was to run until the end of the year with an option of a further three years to take in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Australia's Olympic chief John Coates said earlier this month that the swimming scandal could lead to parents blocking their children from taking up the sport, while also turning off sponsors.
In the wake of a highly critical review into the governance of the sport, Swimming Australia will also bring in a new CEO and high performance director.
"There will be a new leadership structure for the organisation for the Australian Championships and the aim of that structure is to provide our elite and up-and-coming athletes and coaches with the best environment to succeed," Nettlefold said.
"We have a preferred candidate for the CEO position in Mark Anderson from Hockey Australia, and will look to finalise his appointment next week. Similarly we have narrowed the Director of High Performance down to a preference of two candidates and will consult with the new CEO and High Performance Committee before finalising that appointment."
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