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Aquatics | International

Fraser calls for life ban on sleeping pill users

Veteran Australian swimming star Dawn Fraser on Thursday urged a lifelong competition ban for members of the London Olympics 4x100 relay team who last week admitted taking prohibited sleeping pills.

The much-vaunted Australian relay side, who talked themselves up as the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" but failed to make a podium finish, confessed to taking Stilnox – banned by Australian team officials – for a "bonding" night.

Five of the six team members called a media conference last week to come clean on using the pills as part of a team-building night at their Manchester training camp ahead of the London Games that descended into pranks.

Australian swimming great Dawn Fraser, winner of eight Olympic medals including four gold between 1956-64, said the group should be barred from competition for life.

"Those people who take drugs in sport should be banned forever, not to ever be allowed to come back into sport ... especially in this example," said Fraser.

"They should be punished severely because they are setting a bad example for the younger generation for our country."

Australian swimmers had previously used Stilnox to ensure a good night's rest before competition until the AOC banned it in the lead-up to London.

Recreational users of Stilnox often deliberately try to stay awake, which can induce a "high" and even cause hallucinations.

Fraser was herself well known for controversial behaviour and was suspended by officials for 10 years after stealing an Olympic flag from outside the emperor's palace during the 1964 Tokyo games.

She was arrested but released without charge, and her suspension lifted in 1968, though it was too close to the Olympics for her to be able to compete.

Fraser said her behaviour, which also included wearing a non-regulation swimsuit and marching in the Tokyo opening ceremony in defiance of official orders, was completely different to taking drugs.

"I think they set a bad example. They wouldn't inspire me if I was a youngster coming up in the sport of swimming," said Fraser, 75.

London was Australian swimming's first Games without an individual gold medal since the 1976 Montreal Olympics and marked Australia's lowest medal haul in the sport since Barcelona in 1992 with just one gold, six silver and three bronze.

Two reports into what went wrong in London found the squad lacked leadership and that "toxic" incidents such as drunkenness and bullying had gone unchecked.


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