Tennis: Outcry over tennis girls' diets claims outcr

Australian academy launches inquiry after players tell of eating disorders

THE PRESTIGIOUS Australian Institute of Sport has launched an investigation into claims by a group of women tennis players that they were forced into unsuitable diet regimes as part of their training, which left some with eating disorders.

The allegations involve 34 former scholarship holders at the Institute, beginning in 1981 but including some who were being coached at Canberra as recently as three years ago.

One former national junior champion, Esther Knox, lost over half a stone in nine days on what she described as "a semi-starvation diet" consisting of just fruit for breakfast and lunch, and small portions of meat and salad for dinner.

But the worst moment of her internship, in 1992-93, came when her coach, Peter Campbell, videoed his slimmed-down charge in action and, Ms Knox alleges, focussed the camera on her legs, "to show me how much better I looked. I was completely humiliated."

Another player, Brenda Catton, has recalled how pressure to lose weight from her coach at the Institute led to her "vomiting before each match" including games at Wimbledon in 1981, when she had lost nearly two stone in weight. Soon after arriving on her scholarship, she says, coach Ray Ruffels would call her "fat and slow" and began to pick on her for being unable to lift weights. She developed anorexia nervosa, and later bulimia, which took 10 years to overcome.

"The only reason I developed anorexia was to please Ray," Ms Catton told the Sydney Daily Telegraph. "They were always on to me about losing weight." Mr Ruffels, who left the AIS in 1990, denied calling her fat, though he conceded that he tried to instil a "disciplined" approach to diet.

Another girl, Renee Reid, responded to similar pressures by going on eating binges. The first her parents knew of the problem, after two years of her scholarship, was when the AIS sent her a memo to the family home, dated February 28, 1995, after a tournament in Ballarat, Victoria.

In it, her coach at the Institute, Chris Kachel, wrote: "Following the results of your physical testing at last week's AIS scholarship holders' camp, I am writing to express my supreme disappointment.

"It is unacceptable for an AIS tennis athlete to have a skinfold reading of 181, when the expected range is approximately 80-100." The memo confirmed the suspension of scholarship entitlements, including an allowance worth A$300 per week for financial support while playing in overseas tournaments, though the player herself had been told verbally, in front of other trainees.

Her mother, Sandra Reid, said: "Renee had three options - anorexia, bulimia or eat - that's what happens to girls if they are called fat. I'm glad she did go out and eat because if she chose the other alternatives she would be dead."

Another former trainee, Linda Cassell, who is now a nun, recalled hearing her fellow players, in 1981-82, vomiting in the bathrooms under a regime which, she said, placed more stress on players' appearance in their tennis outfits than the actual level of performance: "They lived on lettuce, they jogged in glad wrap by night." Ms Reid complained that, when she was removed from the programme, she had proved herself capable of beating other, slimmer trainees on court.

The allegations have brought to a head long-standing criticisms of AIS methods, widely admired and emulated in other sports, being applied to tennis players. Margaret Court, an Australian sporting legend for her feats as the only woman to win the Grand Slam of all four major championships in the same calendar year, said the game at the top level required individual coaching.

"I believe champions are very sensitive," she declared. "When they get into squad coaching at an early age, they get walked over, they all look like robots. I wouldn't have survived if I had gone into the AIS."

Australia's current big name tennis stars are both men - Mark Philippoussis, who has always been coached by his father, albeit with financial support from the AIS, and Patrick Rafter, a "late developer" who only reached his top 10 status well after he started working with a full-time individual coach.

In a media release, the AIS points to more modest successes by female graduates of its coaching system, with Annabelle Elwood, who achieved a world ranking of 55, and Alicia Molik, who rose during her internship from 660 to 163, being the most notable.

The Institute's director, John Boultbee, said neither he nor his coaching staff could be blamed for Australia's failure to produce outstanding women tennis players to set alongside world-beating alumni from programmes in athletics, water sports and a host of other fields.

Mr Boultbee plans to interview journalists, officials, former coaches and players to get to the bottom of the matter. But he added: "Surely Australian taxpayers wouldn't expect coaches to stand by and allow athletes not to achieve fitness levels at the expense of other committed athletes who can meet those criteria." Despite the help of a range of professionals, trainees themselves were "accountable on issues such as fitness and discipline."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power