Breaking Badly, a Story of Meth and Medals

by Casey Barrett

The drug-fueled descent of Scottie Miller, Aussie butterfly great… 

He was once the most talented flyer on earth. His long flowing stroke won him Olympic silver in the 100 fly at the 1996 Olympics. He added a bronze on the Aussie’s 4 x 100 medley relay at those same Games. His butterfly leg was the one that put them on the podium. Scottie Miller was one of those guys who had the world by the balls when he was 21. His talent in the water was matched by matinee idol good looks. The ladies loved him. He married a stunning blonde TV personality.

And then he began to snort and pop and smoke it all away. The downfall of this one-time champion reads like an E! True Hollywood Story. He was a swimmer’s version of a child star who couldn’t cope with life out of the spotlight, who found solace in very hard partying, and then drifted further into the abyss and started selling the drugs he was doing.

Miller has been playing on the shady side of the street for some time now. Four years ago he was arrested on Ecstasy charges, when police found the drugs, a pill press machine and almost a quarter million in cash at a storage facility belonging to Miller in Sydney. After a guilty plea, he somehow he got off without jail time, presumably after serving up names of his connections. He served 100 hours community service and completed a two-year suspended sentence and promised to get his shit together. He didn’t.

Last month he was arrested on suspicion of dealing meth, or as the Aussies like to call it, “ice.” Then, nine days ago, on Saturday night, July 20th, he was arrested again for alleged supplying meth, this time by a cop on street patrol in the Sydney neighborhood of Potts Point.

Clearly, the guy’s got some problems. And this time, it’s probably going to mean jail time.

How did he fall so damn far? Reading about Miller feels personal. He was born five days after me, on February 21st, 1975. We swam the same stroke, were the exact same age, for fellow Commonwealth nations. We sat in multiple Ready Rooms together. At the ’95 Pan Pacific Games (where Miller won gold in both the 100 and 200 fly) and again in Atlanta, where I swam the 200 fly in the heat before him. He was always a good bit faster, but we were contemporaries, and after the big meets end, the Canadians and the Aussies tend to stick together.

That’s how it was in Atlanta. After the swimming concluded, the Aussies and the Canadians could generally be found out at the same bars, up to no good, beer to beer. Miller and I didn’t really know each other, beyond the recognizing nod, but everyone knew that Miller was the one who knew where the party was. Even at 21, he had that rep. He liked to hit it hard after he stepped from those podiums, but that was okay. A lot of us did. But there’s a world of difference between ‘hitting it hard’ the way, say Phelps or Lochte have been known to do, and hitting it to the point of dealing it.

I’m drawn to dark descents and falls from grace and demons when the music stops. You probably are too. Everyone slows down to gawk at the train wreck. But when it’s a guy who once traveled in your same current, swimming the same stroke at the same time, you just want to look away.

How did it all go so recklessly wrong for Scottie Miller? Probably much like Hemingway wrote in The Sun Also Rises: “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

It sounds like Miller is about to suddenly find himself behind bars. But ever since he stopped swimming butterfly, it sounds like he’s been gradually headed that way all along.