At all levels of worldwide sports bodies, non-governmental organizations and, of course, some International Federations, particularly affected by this phenomenon, protection of young athletes from abuse (emotional, verbal, sexual harassment, molestation and other forms) is a topic of discussion and action. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has responded promptly to prevent and oppose the problem. “The FIG has a long and rich history of which the gymnastics family is rightly proud. There can be no pride, though, without the highest respect for the principles of good governance and ethical compliance,” said FIG president Morinari Watanabe.
Starting point - Gymnastics is a sport that has been seriously affected by this ‘enemy,’ but similar cases have been reported in other sports (football, swimming, volleyball…). Unquestionably, the peak was the “Larry Nassar case”. It was (and maybe is) the biggest sexual abuse scandal in sports history. In gymnastics he was a ‘starting point’ for new and stronger actions to eradicate abuse. After repeated cases of sexual abuses in gymnastics and the trial of Larry Nassar, the former doctor of the American team, FIG, in a prompt response, announced early in the year the creation of an independent organ intended for the victims to prevent and oppose abuse. “Since 2017, in the wake of the sexual abuse cases in the USA which shocked the world of gymnastics, the FIG has undertaken an in-depth review of its policies and rules, and strengthened its legal tools to better prevent any new cases and to assist the victims, ” read a statement.
Flagship project - In the statement FIG highlighted that the foundation of the independent body is to be one of the governing bodies’ flagship project. “One of the flagship projects announced by the FIG President, Morinari Watanabe, for this venture is the establishment of an independent body tasked with dealing with any kind of harassment, abuse or violation of the ethical rules”, read the last press release. And FIG further explained: “Everyone in sport has the right to be protected from non-accidental violence, harassment and abuse irrespective of their race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability, physical attributes, athletic ability or other status. Non-accidental violence includes all forms of harassment and abuse and occurs worldwide. It is important to increase awareness of the indicators and impact of all forms of non-accidental violence. All participants in Gymnastics need to know how to raise concerns and be confident that these will be responded to by their National Federation, their National Olympic Committee, Sports Authorities, or the FIG in keeping with the FIG Policies and Procedures. Everyone should be aware of the avenues and means open to them for assistance and support. The FIG has implemented measures to prevent and respond to incidents of non-accidental violence, harassment and abuse. It is the responsibility of each national federation to adopt and implement such policies and procedures to protect their athletes and other participants in gymnastics. They must demonstrate strong leadership by identifying and eradicating unacceptable practices”.
Gymnastics ethics foundation - The creation of this new structure, called the ‘Gymnastics Ethics Foundation’ will be put to a vote at the FIG's national member federations at the next congress in Baku in December. For this project, an important step forward was taken at the recent FIG Executive Committee Meeting in Pacific Harbour, Fiji. The EC approved the constitution and the operational rules of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, which will be put before the Congress in December. The EC also approved all the changes to the FIG Statutes, to the Code of Ethics and to the Code of Discipline, required by the creation of this Foundation and which must now also be approved by the Congress. According to the Constitution of the Foundation, it will have responsibility for monitoring the good governance and ethical principles of the FIG; managing disciplinary procedures; safeguarding athletes and other participants in gymnastics from harassment and abuse. This organisational structure will enable the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to operate entirely independently from the FIG and its national member federations. Once approved by the Congress, the Foundation should be in operation from January 1, 2019.
A model in the world of sports - “Our aim is to become a role model for good governance and compliance in the world of sport. Such a structure will allow us to better protect the athletes as well as the federations of each country”, said FIG president Morinari Watanabe.