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ATHLETE STORIES






                                                                                                                                   little girls who briefly found    training. In Britain, reports    come after the success of the
            THE TOXIC                                                                                                              teenagers and adults because      reports include brutally hard    given the nature of politics, it
                                                                                                                                   self-confidence through sport
                                                                                                                                                                     started to surface in 2017 of
                                                                                                                                                                                                      #MeToo movement in 2016.
                                                                                                                                   became deeply self-loathing
                                                                                                                                                                     wide-spread bullying. These
                                                                                                                                                                                                      This has become political, and
            THE TOXIC
                                                                                                                                   the man who was supposed
                                                                                                                                                                     training practices and focused
                                                                                                                                                                                                      has also become polarised.
                                                                                                                                   to help them do the sport they
                                                                                                                                                                     inducements for girls as
                                                                                                                                                                                                         Hockey Australia has
                                                                                                                                   loved instead molested them,
                                                                                                                                                                     young as 13 to lose up to 6kg.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      endured a miserable time
                                                                                                                                   over and over again.”
                                                                                                                                      The same predatory
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Rio 2016, facing accusations of
                                                                                                                                                                     by trainers and their injuries
                                                                                                                                   behaviour existed in English      Gymnasts alleged being hit       since the disappointment of
                                                                                                                                                                     ignored. The same stories can
                                                                                                                                                                                                      their own culture of bullying,
                                                                                                                                   football in the 1980s, where      be seen in Australia, where      cliques and omerta. The usual
                                                                                                                                   Barry Bennell used his standing
                                                                                                                                                                     in May the Australian Human
                                                                                                                                                                                                      pattern for toxic environments
            SI                                                                                                                     as a scout and coach for a        Rights Commission concluded      is depressingly evident. Before
            SIDE OF SPORTDE OF SPORT
                                                                                                                                   number of clubs. Young boys,
                                                                                                                                                                                                      being dismissed earlier this
                                                                                                                                                                     its damning report. It found a
                                                                                                                                   hopeful of a career in football,
                                                                                                                                                                                                      year, Hockeyroos coach
                                                                                                                                                                     culture of physical, emotional
                                                                                                                                   saw him as the path to their
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Paul Gaudoin claimed that
                                                                                                                                                                     and sexual abuse which
                                                                                                                                   dreams. He would lavish them
                                                                                                                                   with his attention, until the     permeated the sport. This        there was no real merit to
                                                                                                                                                                                                      the stories of toxicity within
                                                                                                                                                                     was caused by “a persistent
                                                                                            By Tim Mottram                         day that he molested them.        use of authoritarian or highly   the team. What is perhaps
                                                                                                                                   Hundreds of boys suffered         disciplinary coaching styles”,   more interesting were the
                           hat would          encapsulates the concept that    something to lose: and in any                       the same fate, and it was         and the gender disparity was     words from former coach
                           you suffer for     while sporting institutions are   system that is based on merit,                     universally understood that if    also seen as a reason for the    Ray Charlesworth. Talking
                           your dreams?       vital to developing sporting     the managers and coaches                            they made a fuss, their careers   toxicity. Gymnastics Australia   to AAP, he said that he didn’t
              WOver the past                  prowess, they could also be      hold all the cards.                                 would be over before they         has made a global apology and    “know how you get people to
            few years, thousands of elite     used to demean and abuse.          A quick survey of the most                        began. The culture of mass        is taking steps to amend the     (reach their potential) without
            athletes have started telling     Keynote speaker Sanjara Kiren    recent scandals reveals this                        silence existed until he was      issue.                           challenging them. If that’s
            their stories, how they           was joined by an array of        pattern.                                            finally brought to justice in       It is clear that in these      bullying, then I’m out of my
            have been racially insulted,      sporting greats on the panel,                                                        2018. By then, the damage was     cases the “win at all costs”     time”.
            shamed, bullied and abused.       and the takeaways showed that       A culture of fear                                done.                             model has actually given way        There is always a risk when
            The stories are in equal parts    there is a willingness to confront   can only be created                                These are, of course, the      to something much darker.        addressing imbalances that
            heart-rending and enraging,       toxic cultures head on.          when there is                                       most extreme and horrific of      The naked aggression which       the old-guard will find ways to
            as in case after case, high-        One of the key findings        something to lose:                                  cases. These monsters have        traditionally fits our model     diminish the experiences of
            profile and powerful men          was that the very structure of   and in any system                                   ended lives. But there are        of the supreme sporting          others. This, simply put, is how
            prey on young people,             sporting institutions leaves     that is based on                                    plenty of examples where the      champion can come from a         power works. But with so many
            leveraging their positions to     them open to mismanagement       merit, the managers                                 behaviour of people in power      place of self-serving narcissism,   lives ruined, it is imperative
            create a culture of fear and      or slackness regarding the       and coaches hold all                                do not have to break the law      where the needs of others are    that sport stops looking for
            compliance.                       care of young people. All are    the cards.                                          to make young people suffer       subsumed by their own need       excuses and starts doing what
              Just how to address this        top-down entities, so they                                                           intensely.                        to achieve.                      it always claims to do: to make
            black stain on international      are effectively only as good       With the 2020 release of                             Returning to gymnastics,         There is an underlying         people better.
            sport is a matter of some         as the people who run them.      the documentary Athlete A,                          federations around the world      current to this story. It is no
            serious soul-searching. On May    The antidote is education,       global gymnastics was held up                       have been flayed for the          mistake that these allegations
            27th, Australia took a vital step   communication and strict       as a model for how sport can                        treatment of the people under     and investigations have
            towards making sport a safer      guidelines. Policies need to be   become a nightmare. Larry
            place.                            drawn up and adhered to, and     Nassar abused hundreds,
              Co-sponsored by Sportscover     whistle-blowers should be safe   possibly thousands, of                              One of the key findings was that the very structure
            Australia, the 2021 National      from recrimination.              gymnasts over decades. He                           of sporting institutions leaves them open to
            Sport Integrity Forum took          It is this final issue that    took advantage of his standing
            place. Victoria University and    has been at the heart of         in the sport to groom and                           mismanagement or slackness regarding the care of
            Sport Australia Hall of Fame      the range of scandals that       abuse these girls, whose
            hosted the event using the        have gripped sport over the      parents saw only his reputation                     young people. All are top-down entities, so they are
            tagline “it takes a sporting      decades. A culture of fear can   within the sport. According to                      effectively only as good as the people who run them.
            village to raise a child”, which   only be created when there is   a report in The Guardian, “shy




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