MORE than 70 swimmers past and present including Olympians Freya Anderson and Hector Pardoe have signed a letter of support for suspended Ellesmere Titans director of swimming Alan Bircher.

It was confirmed last week that Bircher and one other coach had been suspended by Swim England – leading to his removal as an open water coach for Team GB in Tokyo – following welfare concerns that allegedly uncovered a 'toxic culture of bullying and fat shaming'.

Other safeguarding concerns were also raised, leading to Swim England's review, with a temporary team put in place.

However, the letter – the brainchild of former members and elite swimmers Hannah Knight and Chloe Golding – had attracted plenty of support, including Whitchurch's Pardoe who was set to be coached by Bircher at the upcoming Games.

The letter said: "We are shocked and saddened to hear the news resulting in the suspension of Alan Bircher and his colleague from coaching at Ellesmere College Titans.

"As past and present swimmers of theirs, all training at Ellesmere College, we are confused as to how these allegations have come to light after we all had such amazing experiences swimming at Titans.

"Alan has given his life to swimming as an athlete, then as a coach.

"Without a doubt, he is one of the best coaches in Great Britain, helping so many of his athletes to compete on an international stage, most recently three to the Tokyo Olympics.

"None of us have ever experienced any hurtful or damaging behaviour from Alan and the coaches at Titans.

"We have only ever had the opposite – Alan is a coach who pushes us to be at our best, who makes sure you have a great time while getting there...the Titans coaches affected by this decision are both hardworking individuals who only ever want the best for the young people in their care and do not deserve to be in the position they have found themselves in.

"Not only has Alan helped us grow as athletes, but also as people. We would not be who we are today without him. We owe so much to Alan and the Titans and are so grateful that we have been able to be coached by him and experience such a great team."

More than half of the signatories are present members of the club while Amanda Wetherell, a former coach at the club, clarified that she had not been suspended or disciplined by Swim England.

Ellesmere College Titans said that under current sanctions from Swim England, it was unable to comment.