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."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?