Swimming: Davies defends Sweetenham as inquiry starts

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An article in a newspaper last month suggested that Sweetenham, the no-nonsense Australian who took the job five years ago, had contributed to the recent retirements of 13 senior British swimmers, and created a "poisonous atmosphere" in the British camp.

British Swimming's chief executive, David Sparkes, said last night: "We are undertaking an independent investigation with a view to determining the facts and any issues we need to address." Sparkes said that Sweetenham had already offered his version of events and had "co-operated fully".

Regarding Sweetenham's approach - which is said to include training to the point of exhaustion - Sparkes said: "The coach's role is to get the best out of the athlete and that means at times encouraging them to go beyond that which the athlete knows they can do. I guess from an outside perspective that could look like bullying, but it's a difficult area and I'm not going to prejudge the enquiry."

Several swimmers have defended Sweetenham, including David Davies, who won 1500m freestyle bronzes at last year's Olympics and this year's World Championships.

"I feel fortunate to have Bill. He has brought us on miles and made us a very professional unit," he said.

"He has opened my eyes to how tough and dedicated you need to be to succeed."