Sun July 1, 2012 9:45am
OLYMPIC champion Grant Hackett battled a "heavy reliance" on the controversial sleeping pill Stilnox towards the end of his glittering swimming career, an investigation has revealed.
The besieged Hackett - who is battling to salvage his reputation after his ugly split from wife Candice Alley - confirmed he started using the pills after they were administered by swimming officials during meets, including the Olympics.
Hackett was fragile, but honest, when he admitted yesterday he was given Stilnox by officials and overused them, adding it was always under supervision of a team doctor or a general practitioner.
"At one point they scared me," he said. "They're evil.
"It's been a difficult and stressful few weeks. Given the timing of your inquiry, I urge you to be responsible with the story and respectful of the circumstances."
Hackett battled a shoulder injury from 2006 onwards and continued gruelling training sessions of 16km a day in the pool on the Gold Coast. He had problems sleeping and took Stilnox over a "longer than usual period'', as well as receiving treatment through natural remedies.
He was under the supervision of his GP, Dr Gerry Flynn, a Gold Coast doctor who doubles as a "sleep guru" and has lectured on the topic around the world.
Former Australian Olympic swim team head coach Alan Thompson from 2005 to 2010 was in charge in Beijing. He confirmed swimmers were administered Stilnox after The Sunday Times learnt of its widespread use.
Mr Thompson said he "inherited" the practice, but was not a fan of the pill's use.
"Rest during competition and during periods of intense training, especially long-distance swimmers, is critical,'' said Mr Thompson, who is now high-performance manager at the Canterbury Bulldogs NRL team. "It was common practice with some athletes back then, but not something I recommended.''