Russian doping scandal: Swimming stars express ‘disappointment’ during visit to St Albans

Swim stars Mark Foster and Rebecca Adlington join in with a Victorian swimming lesson at the Westmin

Swim stars Mark Foster and Rebecca Adlington join in with a Victorian swimming lesson at the Westminster Lodge event with local school children - Credit: Archant

Revelations about the Russian doping scandal have “massively disappointed” swimming stars Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster, who spoke about the allegations while visiting St Albans.

Rebecca and Mark responded to questions about the accusations from a large media contingent which had converged poolside at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre on Tuesday (10).

The duo joined London 2012 synchronised swimmers Adele Carlsen and Vicki Lucass and water polo players Fran Clayton and Craig Figes, along with 2000 Olympic breaststroke swimmer Adam Whitehead, for a Victorian-style swimming lesson.

They had gathered in St Albans to mark 125 years of school swimming.

Rebecca, who began swimming at the age of three, is a multiple Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medallist – in 2013 she took part in “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”.

Mark, who lives in Radlett, represented England at the 1986 Commonwealth Games and went on to represent this country for 23 years, winning 47 major international medals.

Reacting to the doping scandal, which has seen Russia accused of using a secret drug laboratory to ‘sabotage’ the Olympic Games, Rebecca said: “It is massively sad. As someone who was involved in London 2012, it is massively disappointing. Action needs to be taken.”

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They both said that they felt sorry for those athletes who had been denied medals as a result and missed their special moment on the podium.

The pair donned Victorian costumes before giving 125 local children, including pupils from St. Adrian’s Catholic Primary and St Peter’s schools in St Albans, a taste of Victorian swimming lessons.

They urged schools to take the sport more seriously, as swimming was a ‘life skill’.

Mark pointed out that many pupils left primary school unable to swim.

Rebecca added: “A lot of schools don’t take it seriously. If you go to Australia and America, everyone can swim – it is considered a life skill, whereas here it is just seen as a sport, and we need to change that. We need to change that so everyone leaving school knows how to swim.

“It is a life skill.”

The day raised awareness of the continued need for quality school swimming lessons.

While there has been a vast improvement since Victorian times, recent statistics from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) show that only 55 per cent of children aged between seven and 11 can swim 25 metres unaided.

Around 1,300 schools in the UK do not offer school swimming provision at Key Stage 2, which is a major contributing factor to around 200,000 children leaving primary school each year unable to swim.