19 Apr 2016

Hackett apolgises for nipple grabbing

9:26 am on 19 April 2016
Police attempt to question Grant Hackett at Melbourne airport.

Police attempt to question Grant Hackett at Melbourne airport. Photo: Channel 7

The Australian long distance swimming great Grant Hackett has apologised for an altercation with a passenger on a flight to Melbourne after being questioned by police.

Hackett, who won back-to-back Olympic 1,500 metres freestyle titles at the 2000 Sydney Games and four years later in Athens, was reported to have pinched a male passenger's nipple after he reclined his seat in front of the swimmer.

The 35-year-old swimmer, who this month failed to qualify for the August 5-21 Rio de Janeiro Games, was helped off the plane by another passenger and questioned by police at Melbourne airport.

"I seriously and genuinely regret my poor behaviour. I have stuffed up more than once and am working on these issues," Hackett said in a statement.

"I apologise unreservedly to the gentleman on the flight. I am trying to make direct contact with him personally."

Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted the unnamed passenger's version of events.

"As I reclined my chair, he (Hackett) grabbed it and yanked it back," the man told the paper.

"Then he put his hand through and groped my chest and tweaked my nipple quite forcefully.

"Mr Hackett then stroked my arm and said; 'It's OK, it's all right.'

"I felt unsafe and violated."

Governing body Swimming Australia said it was "extremely disappointed" to hear of the reports but said they would support Hackett, who head coach Jacco Verhaeren said he wanted in Rio as a mentor to the team.

"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," SA said.

Hackett has previously struggled with drug and alcohol problems, and admitted he became dependent on a sleep medication.

The swimmer flew to the United States in 2014 to spend time in a rehab centre after he was spotted topless and disoriented in the lobby of a Melbourne casino.