Sports must guard against child abuse: Australian Olympic chief

2 min

Sydney (AFP)

Sports federations must be as vigilant in monitoring for cases of child abuse as they are for doping, Australia's Olympic chief said Thursday, revealing a welfare officer will be at the Rio Games to handle any complaints.

John Coates made the comments while giving evidence to a long-running Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The government ordered the inquiry in 2012 after a decade of growing pressure to investigate allegations of paedophilia across the country and has heard claims of child abuse involving churches, orphanages and schools.

It has this week been hearing allegations of abuse at sporting clubs and institutions, often dating back decades, and how relevant governing bodies responded.

Coates was invited to address it to outline the Australian Olympic Committee's approach to protecting young athletes from harassment.

He said currently all national sporting federation's must have an anti-doping policy to be recognised as a member of the Australian Olympic Committee. If athletes and officials do not comply with these rules, they are not selected for the Olympics.

Coates suggested there should be similar regulations regarding children, with sporting federations worldwide adopting child protection policies.

The Sydney Morning Herald cited him as urging severe penalties for Olympic member countries without adequate protections against sexual abuse, including stripping IOC funding, "just as you don't receive funding if you don't comply with the World Anti-Doping Code".

Coates is also a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and revealed it was running a pilot programme at the Rio Games to better protect younger athletes, some of whom are minors.

"I have been involved in the legal side of these initiatives along with IOC athletes, the athletes' entourage and the medical and scientific commissions so we can all better understand and deal with harassment and child abuse," he said.

"Reporting channels have been set up for the first time in Rio.

"It is proposed an IOC appointed welfare officer will be stationed in the Olympic village in Rio throughout the Games and will be responsible for following up alleged incidents of harassment and abuse."

The AOC has not recorded any child abuse issue on any of its teams so far, he added.