Athletics coach arrested on rape charge

2018-07-15 13:51
Magistrate's court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Magistrate's court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Steven Swarts, the stepfather of Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, has appeared in court on a charge of rape.

Swarts, an athletics coach and deputy president of Athletics Free State (AFS), appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Monday and has strongly denied the accusation made against him.

The complainant, a 21-year-old woman that he coached, laid the charge at the Park Road Police Station in Bloemfontein.

Police spokesperson Lorraine Earle said the incident took place at Eunice High School for girls on June 25, allegedly while Swarts was giving the woman a massage.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said the state alleges that Swarts penetrated the athlete with his finger. Since rape laws were amended in 2007, any penetration with an object is legally considered rape.

Shuping said Swarts was released on bail of R1 000 and will appear in court again on August 3.

Deep-tissue massage

Swarts, himself a former long-distance athlete, said he gives all his athletes the same deep-tissue massage. He said the groin area is also massaged because this is where the thyroid gland drains.

“I told her from the start that it would feel odd,” he told City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport.

Swarts said he was shocked when he found out about the allegations.

“It is very, very bad. I’m not even training with my athletes anymore,” he said.

Swarts said he has never asked athletes for money and has been “coaching children for free for 20 years”.

“I’ve never done anything inappropriate in all that time,” he said, adding that he will allow the law to take its course.

Zinette de Wet, the headmistress of Eunice, said she had been informed of the incident.

Swarts does not work for the school, but uses its facilities like various other private coaches do.

Shock

AFS president Jantjie Theletsane said on Friday afternoon that he had not heard about the incident or the charge, and wanted to investigate further before commenting.

Kobus Steyn, chairperson of the AFS track and field commission, was also shocked.

“I’ve known Steven for a long time and he is a very humble guy and a committed Christian. He’s not even the kind of guy that would give a woman hugs.

“I don’t even want to think about Steven being guilty of something like that,” he said.

Steyn said the athletics body would act if there was any truth to the accusation.

Swarts has supported Van Niekerk from a young age. In 2016, he told the website Team SA he and the 400m Olympic champion have a strong father-son relationship.

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  crime

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