British swimmers claim they were intimidated by ex-coach and alleged pedophile John Wright

British sport is embroiled in another abuse scandal after teenage swimmers said they were bullied by a coach who was arrested overseas on multiple assault charges.

England’s swimming governing body has been made aware of a social media support group set up by swimmers trained by suspected pedophile John Wright, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

It is understood Swim England protection officers have been in contact with former swimmers who claim the Australian coach harmed them. This newspaper also established that Wright worked at the Kingston Royals club in London despite being convicted of assaulting the parent of a 13-year-old swimmer a decade earlier.

Wright, who is over seventy, was re-arrested in Australia last October and charged with nine counts of historic child molestation following a television documentary. He interviewed several men who claimed Wright abused them while coaching in the 1980s.

A further 20 charges relating to the indecent treatment of a child followed in February after more alleged victims came forward in Australia. He was also accused of sexually abusing a teenage swimmer in South Africa shortly before joining the Kingston Royals in the late 1990s.

Teenage swimmers have claimed they were bullied by coach John Wright, who was arrested overseas (pictured: Wright with Su-Ling Ch’ng, whose mother he was found guilty of assaulting)

No one at the club is known to have alleged sexual abuse. Their former swimmers formed the secret social media support group over the common understanding that Wright had bullied club athletes and, in some cases, suffered emotional issues as a result.

Britain’s Olympic sports have been marred by multiple safeguard scandals in recent years over coaches suspected of abusing elite athletes in gymnastics, cycling and rowing.

Wright spent nine years at Kingston Royals. During his reign they became the strongest club in the south of England, with at least two swimmers representing their country.

Most of the athletes under his tutelage in Kingston would have been under the age of 16. ‘Swim England have had their child safety officers working on the Wright case since last year when it all blew up. [in Australia]“said a source, whose work is related to child protection in sport.

An online support group was created by swimmers trained by alleged pedophile Wright

An online support group was created by swimmers trained by alleged pedophile Wright

“It would be their responsibility to check with Kingston to see if there had been any complaints and concerns expressed. I understand that there had been some and that these have not disappeared.

Wright was reportedly detained in February in Brisbane. Nine counts of indecent assault of a child and one count of common assault related to incidents that allegedly took place between 1980 and 1986.

Wright had coached his home country’s most talented young swimmers and was accused of abusing elite athletes, including Shane Lewis, an Olympian; a second swimmer who was a former junior national champion; and Paul Shearer, who competed at the state championship level.

Shearer and Lewis both contacted Swimming Australia about the abuse, in 2009 and 2016 respectively. Swimming Australia told Shearer it could not investigate as it had not made a formal complaint. Lewis dropped his pursuit of Wright, saying he felt “let down” by his federation.

Shearer died in July 2020, with reports saying he took his own life. Lewis died in February 2021 from a fatal prescription drug overdose at the age of 47.

Swim England has been in contact with former swimmers who claim Wright harmed them

Swim England has been in contact with former swimmers who claim Wright harmed them

The Australian Broadcasting Company documentary prompted a former South African junior swimming champion to come forward with allegations that Wright sexually abused him once or twice a week for six months in 1998, shortly before he not join Kingston.

Anthony Rocchi, who had known Wright since he was 11, was 18 at the time and was living with the coach while preparing for the World Championships in Hong Kong.

“He mistreated me before and after my races, the trials for the world championships”, Rocchi. “When I arrived at the trials, my psychological state was so weakened that I could not post the same times that I had swum for four or five weeks before.

The Kingston Royals support group was formed before the second set of charges were brought against Wright in February, almost 14 years after he bid farewell to the club at the National Championships in Sheffield in August 2008.

Eight of its swimmers, ages 12 to 17, set personal bests at the event. Afterwards, Wright said: “Spending time in Sheffield has been a wonderful experience. Watching our young swimmers, who learned to swim and run from the age of five through the club’s training program, was a proud moment. They are now among the best in the country.

It is unclear whether Bill Sweetenham (pictured above) was aware of Wright's conviction for taking over the British team in 2000.

It is unclear whether Bill Sweetenham (pictured above) was aware of Wright’s conviction for taking over the British team in 2000.

It is understood, however, that his departure was abrupt and without much explanation, leaving the others puzzled.

A coach, who worked at a nearby club in Kingston, said: “I first met Wright in a club competition at Crystal Palace and got to know him reasonably well.”

“He was a typical Aussie, a bit aggressive and not someone I liked very much, but there was no suggestion he was doing what he was accused of.

“You think you know people, but this stuff is terrible. When he left, we never knew why; he never said goodbye to any of his fellow coaches. All we knew was that he was there one minute and gone the next. Now we wonder what could have happened.

Wright was employed in Kingston despite being convicted in 1986 of assaulting the parent of a 13-year-old swimmer in his care in Brisbane.

Sweetenham enjoyed considerable success with the national team before retiring in 2007

Sweetenham enjoyed considerable success with the national team before retiring in 2007

The Australian press reported how Wright was released on 18-month good behavior bail after being found guilty of assaulting Cindy Wee, the daughter of then-Singapore President Wee Kim Wee and mother of Su- Ling Ch’ng.

Bill Sweetenham, the former UK national team manager, was Australia’s national youth coach at the time. It is unclear whether he was aware of Wright’s conviction for taking over the British team in 2000. Sweetenham, who was later cleared of bullying British swimmers following an investigation, enjoyed success considerable with his national team before leaving the post in 2007. He was approached for comment.

Swim England said in a statement: ‘The welfare and well-being of all Swim England members is of paramount importance and we are committed to ensuring that everyone who takes part in our activities can take part in an environment that protects them from harm.

‘Swim England encourages anyone with concerns about this or any other safeguarding issue to contact us. Individuals can also contact the police, Crimestoppers or the NSPCC’s Child Protection Helpline.

The Kingston Royals did not respond to requests for comment.

British sport has been caught and dogged by several abuse scandals in recent years

British sport has been caught and dogged by several abuse scandals in recent years

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