The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) participated in the 2022 Safe Sport International Global Conference, which gathered many top-level experts and athlete survivors from around the world on pressing safeguarding issues. The virtual event was held from 1 to 3 April under the theme of “Safeguarding: Knowledge to Practice”.
GEF Director Alex McLin shared his insights on GEF reporting practices, and on how the resolution of historical cases impacts today’s institutions. During his first presentation, Alex McLin outlined the Foundation’s process from the moment a report about misconduct is received. He emphasised that the complainants will be taken into consideration throughout the whole procedure, that their voice matters and they will be heard. The importance of creating the right environment to report so that athletes don’t fear talking was also stressed by other experts during the conference.
In another presentation at the event, Alex McLin talked about the sensitive topic of historical cases, referring to acts that are no longer actionable under an existing code of discipline. He underlined that while the reporting may have been delayed for a number of reasons, it was still important for sport organisations to take action: the alleged abuse may not be an isolated incident and may be ongoing; it may be part of institutional or organised abuse; and the perpetrator may still be working with vulnerable individuals. Dealing appropriately with historical cases is also an important step in survivors’ recovery process. While historical cases are fraught with legal hurdles (e.g. lack of physical evidence; past legal framework and statute of limitations), the ethical considerations go beyond the rules. If a case is not actionable, it is still recommended to investigate sufficiently to understand what has and what has not been done; report such allegations to the police and/or local authority; offer support to the survivor; and push for organisational reforms to minimise the chances of reoccurrence.
Following his participation in the conference, Alex McLin said:
“It was an honor to participate and share perspectives with so many knowledgeable speakers at the 2022 SSI Global Conference. A special thanks to those who shared their difficult and personal accounts of abuse to educate us on how to best tackle these challenging issues. I enjoyed being able to discuss the importance of addressing historical cases, as well as sharing the reporting and assessment framework of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation.”
The conference also highlighted once again that prevention remains key in ensuring safe sporting environments. Safe Sport International's education, training and consultancy platform is now live and can be accessed here.