Swimming: 'United' Australian squad say they have learnt their lessons from London 2012

BARCELONA (AFP) - The Australian swim team insist they have learnt from the London Olympic debacle, where they failed to win a single individual gold.

Independent inquiries into Australia's flop in the London pool revealed a "toxic" team environment where incidents such as drunkenness and bullying went unchecked.

It also emerged members of the six-man 4x100m freestyle relay squad had taken sleeping pills, banned by the Australian Olympic Committee, and played pranks at a pre-Games training camp.

London was Australian swimming's first Olympics without an individual gold medal since 1976 and its worst Games medal haul - of one gold medal, six silver and three bronze - for 20 years.

Michael Scott, the Australian team's director of high performance since May 1 following a clean-out of the team's officials, said improving team unity had been the priority coming into Barcelona, where the world swimming championships begin on Sunday.

"The ship isn't broken in Australia, but it needs refining and we have started working on that," he said.

"Team unity and knowing you have the backing of the team, helps support the performance culture you need.

"A fractured team, in any sport, will impact on individual performances.

"We're working on the refinement of our performance culture and greater team unity to make sure we stick together when the going gets tough.

"In any eight-day swim meet, every team has its ups and downs, but we are in a four-year cycle and our goal is to be at our peak in 2016 for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics."

Former world 100m breaststroke champion Brenton Rickard said the atmosphere within the Australian camp has improved.

"I have had a lot of fun and I think the team has too," said the 29-year-old. "Obviously, we can't change London, but it's about learning the lessons and improving.

"It's about enjoying ourselves and being professional inside and outside the pool, not redemption for what happened in London."

Scott said the team had received detailed instructions on what supplements they can take after the men's relay squad were handed fines and suspended bans for misuse of the sleep drug Stilnox prior to London.

"We are very strong on the awareness of what athletes consume in terms of supplements. There is a strong education process from their state institutes of sport and Swimming Australia," said Scott.

"The athletes are totally responsible for what they put in their bodies - strong education is the first priority and that is being reinforced all along the way by our medicine staff."

Cate Campbell, who has posted the fastest women's 50m freestyle time this year, said improved unity will be a key factor in Australia's medal haul at these world championships.

"When you go away, the swim team becomes your family and a healthy family means healthy swimming, which is really important," said the 21-year-old.

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