By James Crook

162321484February 22 - Members of Australia's 4x100 metres relay swimming squad for the London 2012 Olympics could lose their funding after admitting to using Stilnox, a prescription medication used for the treatment of insomnia which had been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

The six members of the squad - James Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, Matt Targett, Tommaso D'Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy - admitted in a press conference to using the drug and apologised for their conduct in their hotel following a team bonding exercise at a Games lead-in camp in Manchester.

The incident had prompted a complaint from 4x200m freestyle silver medallist Jade Neilsen, who claims she and a female team-mate were subjected to "inappropriate behaviour" by members of the relay squad, namely Magnussen, Roberts and McEvoy.

Neilsen alleged that the trio disturbed her and a team-mate with late night phone calls, door knocking and general disruptive behaviour.

They will now all face the newly-formed Swimming Australia Integrity Panel, to be overseen by former Australian Rugby Union chairman Peter McGrath, with the threat of having their funding withdrawn looming.

162323110Members of the Australian swimming team admitted to using the prescription drug Stilnox, banned by the AOC, at a press conference in Sydney today

"The AOC banned the use of hypnotic drugs including Stilnox on the 3rd of July last year, over three weeks before the start of the London Games." said AOC secretary general Craig Phillips.

"The ban was imposed after Grant Hackett alerted us to the dangers of using Stilnox."

Three-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Hackett admitted to a "heavy reliance" on the drug last year, claiming that he was prescribed the sleeping aid by coaches, before retiring in 2008.

The drug does not feature on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances, however. 

"The effects of Stilnox on Grant were alarming and we imposed a ban to protect the health of our athletes." said Phillips.

"All members of our 2012 team were well aware of the ban imposed.

"The AOC will consider what action it will take in the light of these admissions.

"Possible sanctions for a breach of the Team Agreement might include withdrawing funding from the athletes concerned.

"Today's media conference also included details of "inappropriate behaviour" towards two female members of the Australian Olympic Team at the pre‐Games camp in Manchester."

jade-nielsen-729-620x349Jade Neilsen claims she and a teammate were subjected to "inappropriate behaviour" by members of the relay team at a pre-Games camp in Manchester

Australia's swimming team produced their worst performance for 20 years in London,
winning  just one gold, six silver and three bronze medals.

A report into the underwhelming performance stated that "culturally toxic incidents such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breeching curfews, deceit, bullying" were allowed to go unpunished within the team.

Members of the relay team that admitted to inappropriate behaviour and taking the banned drug have stated that they do not believe that taking Stilnox had an impact on their performance as they produced a disappointing fourth-placed finish.

"I think one of the reasons that I agreed to go along with this night was I was feeling under so much pressure and it had been building for the best part of a year," said Magnussen

162320926James Magnussen said he regrets taking Stilnox, but claimed it did not affect his performance at London 2012

"The chance to sort of bond with these guys and be normal for one night were my intentions of the night.

"Obviously in hindsight it was a ridiculous choice and a ridiculous method to do that by and for that, I have a lot of regrets.

"But I don't feel it affected my performance."

Sullivan, the most senior member of the squad apologised for his role in the debacle, saying: "Hindsight is a wonderful thing,

"Of course I regret our decisions and my decision.

"As a senior member of the team I should've stood up and shown more leadership at the time.

"For that, I'm truly sorry.

"If I thought for one moment that these actions and our communal decision to take Stilnox would affect our performance in no way I would've done it."

Swimming Australia has said that it will implement a 100-day plan to address the recommendations of both reviews carried out on the team's performance.

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