Australian sports must adopt child protection policies if their athletes are to compete at the Olympics in the future, the nation’s Games chief said Saturday.
The measure puts the issue of child abuse on an equal footing with drugs in sport, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said.
“It is not negotiable, we will reject anyone whose sport has not implemented a child protection policy,” AOC president John Coates said in a statement.
“Every sport in Australia has to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, why shouldn’t the same importance be placed on child abuse.”
The AOC said it had amended its selection by-law so “only those NFs (National Federations) that have adopted and implemented a Member Protection Policy with which they conform and comply may nominate athletes for selection to, or membership or continued membership of, any (Olympic) Team”.
The AOC in 2014 insisted all national sports federations accepted “coercive powers” compelling athletes and coaches to answer questions about illegal drugs even if it may incriminate them, or face exclusion from the Olympic team.
“We had 100 percent take-up from our member sports on coercive powers and I am confident we will get the same result with these child protection measures,” Coates added.
The move comes amid Australia’s long-running Royal Commission into how institutions, including churches, schools and sporting clubs, have handled child sexual abuse in the past.
When he gave evidence to the commission last month, Coates said the AOC had not recorded any child abuse issue on any of its teams so far.
In his statement on Saturday he said he was responding to a call from Royal Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan to get “ahead of the game” in terms of child protection.
“I got the message loud and clear,” Coates said about better protecting younger athletes.
A spokesman for the AOC said the new policy could not be fully implemented ahead of this year’s Olympics in Rio, for which some athletes have already been selected to represent Australia.
But he said that all team officials had undergone checks to ensure their suitability in working with children.
“Athletes need to feel comfortable and come forward and report an incident,” Coates said.