Former Olympic champion swimmer Grant Hackett apologises after bizarre flight incident
Three-time Olympic champion Grant Hackett has apologised after allegedly tweaking the nipple of a fellow passenger while on a flight from Adelaide to Melbourne on Sunday.
The 35-year-old, who won 1500metres freestyle gold at the Sydney Games and in Athens four years later, was returning from the Australian Swimming championships, where had hoped to qualify for the Rio Games, only to fall short.
"I seriously and genuinely regret my poor behaviour," Hackett said in a statement to Fairfax Media on Monday.
"I have stuffed up more than once and am working on these issues.
"It is embarrassing to hear and read the consequences of my actions. I apologise unreservedly to the gentleman on the flight. I am trying to make direct contact with him personally.
"I know I have to front the media and discuss my actions in a more appropriate and accountable way.
"I just have to sort a few things first so I can be as frank and open as I need to be. I apologise for the inconvenience."
Hackett allegedly slid his hand through the gap between two business class seats and groped a male passenger's chest and tweaked his nipple after the stranger reclined his seat. He was reportedly escorted by police after disembarking.
Collingwood Magpies Australian Rules chief executive Gary Pert was on the flight and said the incident had been "completely blown out of all proportion".
Pert told Triple M radio that Hackett was passed out asleep for much of the flight and may have been drinking prior to boarding.
Swimming Australia issued a lengthy 360-word statement about the incident, saying it was "extremely disappointed to hear the disturbing reports".
The governing body supported the role of the police and will fully support any investigation.
Swimming Australia said it was "particularly surprising" that the incident occurred after Hackett's behaviour at the competition, when he became a television pundit after competing in the pool.
It added: "Given Grant's recent experiences, we are concerned for Grant's welfare and believe that it is very important that we provide Grant with all the support we can provide to ensure his progress as a person remains on track.
"Our main concern at this stage is his welfare. Any other issue or decision remains secondary to his well-being at this point in time. We will address other matters at the appropriate time."