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AthletesCAN – Baseline prevalence study to measure athlete experience with all forms of maltreatment

OTTAWA, ON (March 7th, 2019) – AthletesCAN, in partnership with University of Toronto, and with the support of the Government of Canada, is pleased to announce a baseline prevalence study will be carried out in the coming weeks to provide a snapshot of Canada’s national team athletes’ experiences with abuse, harassment and discrimination in sport. 

“AthletesCAN believes in an evidence based approach to addressing abuse in sport. Since the last prevalence study of this kind more than 20 years ago, the climate with respect to awareness, understanding and disclosing of abuse has changed dramatically”, says Ashley LaBrie, AthletesCAN Executive Director. “These behaviours have become the most widespread threats to sport participants and the positive impact sport can have on society. By understanding the current high performance athlete experience, we have a much better chance at identifying the gaps and building on steps to safer sport environment for all.”

AthletesCAN board member and Olympic alpine skier Allison Forsyth has been leading the AthletesCAN Safe Sport Working Group made up of Olympic and Paralympic athletes; a group that has been key to the development of this study.

“As a victim and fellow athlete of many more, I know instances of abuse, maltreatment, and discrimination are extensive in our sport system”, says Allison. “This baseline study will provide us with clear, concrete, anonymous data that not only shows the degree to which these behaviours occur but more importantly, the areas we need to focus on to address risk and reduce the probability of these instances continuing to take place. It won’t just answer the question “does it exist” but also by whom, where, at what stages in an athlete’s career, and how frequently. These results will ensure we are better armed to make informed and focused action-oriented decisions moving forward towards safer sport in Canada.”

Experts from the University of Toronto including Dr. Gretchen Kerr, Dr. Ashley Stirling, and researcher/Olympian Erin Willson are working with AthletesCAN to ensure the athlete voice is heard in their research.

“The recent highly publicized cases of abuse and harassment in sport call for effective prevention and intervention measures”, says Dr. Kerr. ”Before we design and implement such initiatives however, we need to better understand prevalence rates for various types of harm and the nature of climate in which athletes train and compete.  In this survey, we explore athletes’ experiences of potential harm, including sexual, emotional, & physical abuse, neglect, harassment, bullying, exploitation & discrimination.”

“As a former athlete, I have witnessed athletes from my sport and others experience many forms of abuse and maltreatment”, says retired synchronized swimmer Erin Willson. “While sexual abuse is prominent in the media, there are a variety of other ways athletes are physically and emotionally harmed. With this study, we are hoping to understand the occurrence of maltreatment amongst Canadian athletes as a first step in keeping them safe and having a positive experience while representing their country.” 

In June 2018, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport announced stronger measures to eliminate these behaviours through new provisions in funding agreements while emphasizing the importance of the promotion of safe, equitable sport experiences. This study will be used to inform key recommendations in this important area; evidence the Minister looks forward to receiving in the coming months.

“All Canadians have the right to participate in sport in an environment that is safe, welcoming, inclusive, ethical and respectful” said the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport. “I would like to thank AthletesCAN and the University of Toronto for working together on this study and providing us with the evidence we need to make well-informed decisions to make sport safer in Canada.”

AthletesCAN continues its efforts to protect and support athletes through instances of abuse, harassment and discrimination and will ensure the athlete voice is part of the solution heading in to 2020. 




About AthletesCAN
As the voice of Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN ensures an athlete-centered sport system by developing athlete leaders who influence sport policy and, as role models, inspire a strong sport culture.


For more information or to learn more about AthletesCAN, please contact:

Ashley LaBrie
Executive Director

(613) 601-3413