17/04/2016 2:47 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Collingwood CEO Defends Grant Hackett Following Plane Incident

Fairfax Media

Three time Olympic gold medalist Grant Hackett has issued an apology for his behaviour on a Virgin Australia flight on Sunday morning, which saw him escorted off the plane by members of the Australian Federal Police.

Hackett was questioned by police at Melbourne Airport for allegedly grabbing the nipple of a fellow passenger after being incensed when the passenger reclined his seat.

In the statement, Hackett apologised "unreservedly" to the passenger and said he was attempting to contact the man to apologise personally.

"I seriously and genuinely regret my poor behaviour," he said.

"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 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."

Collingwood CEO Gary Pert, who was seated beside Grant Hackett on the flight, has defended the former swimming star.

Speaking on Triple M's Hot Breakfast program, Pert said the incident that led to the swimmer and Channel Seven commentator being questioned by police had been "completely blown out of all proportion".

"He wasn't aggressive, wasn't looking at causing any trouble. In fact the majority of the flight he was passed out asleep," Pert said on Monday morning.

"One of the passengers in front of him put their seat back and Grant appeared to reach forward and touch him on the back because he wasn't happy about the seat coming back."

"I can't talk on behalf of how the other passenger felt about that, but certainly there was no assault or major altercation," Pert said. "The flight was very uneventful. I'm hearing all sorts of bizarre stories."

Pert also said that "I'm sure he [Grant] might have had a drink before he got on the flight". He later helped Hackett off the flight as the latter was unable to walk suggesting that he may well indeed have had a drink. Or two.


The Herald Sun reported it had spoken to a man who said he was the victim of the well-known Australian swimmer's attentions on board the Virgin Australia flight.

"As I reclined my chair, he grabbed it and yanked it back," the business class passenger told the Herald Sun.

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

"I was shocked, and my partner turned round and he asked him what the hell he thought he was doing."

Fairfax Media reports that the Aussie swim star was taken off the plane at Melbourne Airport by Australian Federal Police.

However the alleged victim shot down rumours that there had been a violent altercation on the flight.

"There was no altercation," the frequent flyer told News Corp Australia.

But he reportedly said the incident had left him feeling "unsafe now getting on a flight".

"I don't know if someone is going to come from behind and grope me again," he said.

In the wake of the alleged incident, Channel 7 broadcast what they claimed was the 35-year-old former Olympic champ slumped in a wheelchair at Melbourne airport.

This image, sent to Seven News, purports to show Grant Hackett slumped over next to police at Melbourne Airport. Photo: Seven News

The AFP confirmed in a statement that officers were called to an arrival gate at Melbourne Airport.

"A 35-year-old man was spoken to however at this time no charges have been laid. Enquiries in relation to this matter are continuing," the statement read.

However, the AFP would not confirm the identity of the 35-year-old.

On Sunday, Virgin confirmed there was an incident on board a plane to Melbourne but would not not name those involved.

The in-flight incident comes after Hackett retired from international swimming following a failed comeback to make the Australian team for Rio.

He had pinned his hopes on making the squad by snagging a 4x200m relay berth, but came up short when he failed to make the 200m freestyle final at the trials in Adelaide.

He spent the rest of the trials with the Channel Seven commentary team and is said to have been keen to work the TV station at the Olympics.

It was from the Olympic trials that he was returning to Melbourne on Sunday.

Hackett reportedly spent part of the previous evening in a corporate box at the Crows v Swans game at the Adelaide Oval for a speaking engagement.

Since leaving the pool, Hackett has had a high-profile media career but has also courted controversy.

In 2014, the swim star has a stint in rehabilitation for a sleeping pills addiction after he was snapped wandering around the foyer of Melbourne's Crown Casino in his underpants searching for his young son. His son, Jagger, was later found in the hotel.

There have also been allegations involving domestic violence claims and the infamous trashing of his apartment in 2011.