Grant Hackett, a three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer from Australia, allegedly groped the chest of a male passenger and tweaked his nipple during a flight.
Sunday's incident happened in business class on a Virgin Australia flight from Adelaide to Melbourne.
The passenger told the Herald Sun that Hackett reacted after he had reclined his seat too far for Hackett's liking. He said Hackett grabbed his chair and shoved it forward.
"Then he put his hand through and groped my chest and tweaked my nipple quite forcefully,” the passenger told the Herald Sun. The freestyle great was said to have stroked the victim's arm and said “it’s OK, it’s all right” but the victim, a real estate executive traveling with his partner to a family reunion, said he "felt unsafe and violated."
While not addressing any specific accusations, Hackett did issue a statement apologizing for his behavior:
“I seriously and genuinely regret my poor behavior,” he said, per news.com.au. “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 apologize unreservedly to the gentleman on the flight. I am trying to make direct contact with him personally."
Hackett, described as drunk by a colleague on the flight, did eventually reach the passenger and said he was sorry, news.com.au reported.
Yahoo noted that the victim, identified as Martin Slobodnik, had accepted the athlete's apology and would not press charges. However, Slobodnik said, “I still feel violated."
Hackett recently failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.