Nav: Home

McMaster professor seeks independent agency to tackle abuse in elite youth sport

March 17, 2020

Hamilton, ON (March 17, 2020) - An independent investigative as well as an international offender database are needed to tackle allegations of abuse in elite youth sport properly, urges a McMaster University expert, in an editorial published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Much is being done to protect young athletes, but "there are still significant gaps," says Margo Mountjoy, associate clinical professor of family medicine, member of the International Olympic Committee Working Group on the Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport and a sports medicine clinician scientist. She is also the regional assistant dean of the Waterloo Regional Campus of McMaster's Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine.

She cites the case of Mary Cain as an exemplar of unhealthy practices in elite youth sport. Cain was a star performer at the age of 17 when she joined Nike's Oregon Project, which was set up to promote long distance running.

But Cain was constantly harried to lose more and more weight to boost her performance and ended up with an eating disorder. She went public last year with allegations of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her coach, Alberto Salazar.

"Mary Cain's story demonstrates a culture where the sport leadership of Nike's Oregon Project failed to protect their female athletes," says Mountjoy. "Cain reported that there was no qualified sport-specific physician, physiologist, dietician or psychologist available, nor an independent safeguarding officer to hear her concerns."

Salazar has subsequently apologized and Nike has stated that it has investigated the allegations and stepped up support for women athletes.

But abuse in elite youth sport isn't just an issue for Nike leadership, says Mountjoy. It's an issue for the media, society in general, and women's sport, she says, referring to the widespread sexual abuse of U.S. female gymnasts by team physician Larry Nassar, which came to light in 2018.

"Abuse is nurtured in a sport culture where athletes are commodified in an environment that pursues 'winning at all costs': one in which athletes have no power, and where abuse is either accepted as being normal or is ignored," Mountjoy says in the editorial.

She lists a commendable array of international programs, initiatives, and policies, designed to protect athletes from abuse. But she adds: "While much is being done in the field of athlete safeguarding, there are still significant gaps."

She calls for the establishment of an independent international safeguarding agency for sports to handle athlete disclosures, investigate and process allegations, and to support victims of abuse. The expertise developed could then be used for preventive efforts, she says. But this agency would have to have sufficient cash and clout to be effective, she insists.

An international database of offenders should also be set up, she says. This would stop "perpetrator migration" to new sport organizations, and athletes charged with misconduct from competing elsewhere.

This has happened in the National Collegiate Athletes Association (NCAA), where 33 athletes, charged with sexual offences since 2014, have managed to transfer to other colleges, she explains.

"Together we must act to stop the victimization of youth elite athletes from abusive coaching practices. From Mary Cain's story, we know what the problem is. We should strive to achieve a safe sporting environment for all," she concludes.
-end-
Editors: A photo of Margo Mountjoy is attached. Credit McMaster University

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Veronica McGuire
Media Relations
Faculty of Health Sciences
McMaster University
905-525-9140, ext. 22169
vmcguir@mcmaster.ca
Text: 289-776-6952

McMaster University

Related Abuse Articles:

Children's fingertip injuries could signal abuse
Many children who suffer fingertip injuries have been abused, according to a Rutgers study.
Admissions to ER's for adolescent sexual abuse have more than doubled
Researchers found that emergency department admissions for children between 12 -- 17 doubled over a 6 year time period.
New tools help detect digital domestic abuse
A new clinical model developed by Cornell Tech researchers aims to respond systematically and effectively to the growing array of digital threats against victims of intimate partner violence.
Researchers link gene to cannabis abuse
New research from the national psychiatric project, iPSYCH, shows that a specific gene is associated with an increased risk of cannabis abuse.
Help for youth who have experienced sexual or physical abuse
There have not been many scientifically evaluated therapies for teens and young adults who have suffered physical or sexual abuse until now.
Fractures in children often indicate abuse
Physical abuse in children often remains undetected. Atypical fractures may indicate such abuse.
Emotional abuse may be linked with menopause misery
Smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle have long been linked to heightened symptoms of menopause.
USPSTF recommendation statement on screening for intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends clinicians screen women of reproductive age for intimate partner violence and then connect women who screen positive to ongoing support services.
Older kids who abuse animals much more likely to have been abused themselves
Older children who abuse animals are two to three times as likely to have been abused themselves as kids that don't display this type of behavior, highlights a review of the available evidence published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect
Maltreatment experienced before age 5 can have negative effects that continue to be seen nearly three decades later, according to a new study led by Lee Raby, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah.
More Abuse News and Abuse Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.