(ATR) Revelations of horrific abuses against Olympic gymnasts will force the IOC and stakeholders to take action to preserve the integrity of all Olympic sports.
The #MeToo movement and the cause of safe sport is number three in the 2018 edition of the Around the Rings Golden 25. Published since 1997, the Golden 25 is an annual review of people, events and issues expected to influence the Olympic Movement in the year ahead.
The painful public revelations by U.S. Olympians Aly Raisman and Mckayla Maroney have exposed the crimes committed against them and other athletes by the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics. Not just the criminal nature of the assaults against these women has been revealed, so too the inability of institutions responsible for the safety of athletes to prevent years of abuse.
Plenty of questions remain in the USA Gymnastics case that could spell trouble ahead for the national governing body and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Raisman has threatened legal action and she would not be alone in seeking justice.
But more than an isolated case, the situation in the U.S. should serve notice to the IOC and its federations to take action before other scandals emerge.
Jordanian IOC member Feisal Al Hussein is chair of the IOC Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport Working Group. Within thecommission structure of the IOC, the Entourage Commission headed by Sergei Bubka, the Athletes Commission led for now by Angela Ruggiero, the Women and Sport Commission chaired by Lydia Nsekera and the Medical and Scientific Commission headed by Ugur Erdener are other pressure points for change.
"The successful prevention and eradication of abuse and harassment against athletes rests on the effectiveness of leadership by the major international and national sport organizations," says a 2015 statement from a group of experts organized by the IOC.
The IOC has created a toolkit for NOCs to use to organize locally, which Feisal presented at the 2017 assembly in Prague. At the 2016 Olympics an IOC "Safeguarding Officer" was always on duty in the Olympic Village to help athletes report trouble. The IOC website now includes a recently added section on sexual harassment and abuse.
New International Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanabe is outspoken on the need to fix this dark side of sport, especially ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
NGOs, such as Generations for Peace founded by Feisal have launched programs in Africa aimed at building tolerance and respect.The Foundation for Global Sports Development(an Around the Rings sponsor) is preparing a documentary on the tangle of issues regarding abuse of athletes. GSD Founders and executives --Pres. David Ulich and Vice Pres. Dr. Steven Ungerleider -- have been vocal advocates for athlete safety.
The notoriety of the U.S. gymnastics cases is expected to lead to inquiries by journalists and government bodies around the world in 2018. Soon more than gymnastics may be facing uncomfortable scrutiny.
Is the world of Olympic sport ready to respond?
The IOC has its own internal cases to handle regarding complaints from women about the behavior of IOC members.
The Netherlands NOC is seeking more information on the resolution of an assault charge concerning Cameil Eurlings involving his girlfriend in 2015. Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady is facing charges of inappropriate behavior from more than a decade ago which he denies and is threatening legal action.
Either case could be reviewed by the IOC Ethics Commission in the next year.
Unranked in 2017
Reported by Ed Hula.