To perfect the IOA Safe Sport Policy@dminx
From the analysis of the IOA Safe Sport Policy, it can be concluded that despite the introduction of many new elements to tackle harassment and abuse, there is still room for improvement. Clarity in definitions and clarity in tabulation of key issues while making sure that proper training and education programs reach every individual connected to the IOA, should be the main issues of concern.
For example, the US SafeSport has developed a dedicated website, which has segregated almost all-important elements in connection with harassment and abuse on it, while making sure that the reader gets to reach the exact resource, which he/she wants or needs access to.
Keeping in mind the above, a public website as well a systematic mechanism should be developed by the IOA, and similar to the steps taken by the US SafeSport, attempts should be made to categorise the contents regarding harassment and abuse. Following can be a manner of doing so:
- Training, Education and Outreach
- Safe Sport Training
- Tech Support
- Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies
- Awareness and Prevention Resources
- Paralympics Athlete Abuse Prevention Policy
- Women’s Protection and Prevention against Harassment and Abuse in Sports
- Response and Resolution
- Report a Concern
- IOA Safe Sport Policy
- Response and Resolution Process
- Procedures and Guides
- Centralized Disciplinary Database (public access)
- National Governing Body Services
- Compliance and Policies
The above systematic categorization of the elements surrounding harassment and abuse, is the way, the US SafeSport has segregated the vast array of information pertaining to harassment and abuse in sport. A bare perusal reveals that the US SafeSport has optimally tried to answer or acknowledge almost all aspects relating to harassment and abuse in sports. As such, there are the following concerning questions that must be answered by any responsible body against harassment and abuse concerns and IOA should take a note of it:
- “How to detect a non-accidental violence?” – SafeSport Training;
- “Where and to whom, can it be most inflicted upon?” – SafeSport Training and Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies;
- “Who is more likely to commit it and by what mechanisms?” – Awareness and Prevention Resources;
- “How and whom to Report?” – Report a Concern;
- “What are the disciplinary mechanisms and process?” – Response and Resolution Process;
- “How to access the website or resources?” – Tech Support; and
- “Are the decisions made public or can they be referenced?” – Centralized Disciplinary Database.
Since one of the main cultural concerns in India is education and therefore awareness, just like the US SafeSport, the IOA should also mandate training and educational programs for adults against harassment and abuse. Also, while the IOA Safe Sport Policy does acknowledge that at most times harassment and abuse often result from an abuse of authority, meaning the improper use of a position of influence, power or authority by an individual against another person, it fails in detailing out examples of it, like a coach-athlete relationship and by what means can it occur.
The US SafeSport Code (defined below) is a brilliant example of how topics can be segregated to ensure reader comfort and ease of access. The “Definition” heading has recognized “Athlete”; “Child Abuse”; “Consent (Force/Legal Capacity/Incapacitation)”; “Minor or Child” and “Power Imbalance”, to be important elements that need to be specially explained to a reader. The elements mentioned hereunder consist of some sensitive and confusing terms that should be explained by sporting organisations and national sports governing bodies.
Further to the above, if anyone were to read the SafeSport Code for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement (“U.S. SafeSport Code”), a bare perusal of the index of US SafeSport Code would suggest that the document, around 40 pages in length, has thoroughly dealt and defined almost all possible offences in relation to harassment and abuse. Over and above this elaborate U.S. SafeSport Code, other important documents like the USOPC Athlete Safety Policy, Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies, NGB & HPMO Athlete Safety Policy, Responsible Sport Organization Background Check Policy, USOPC Background Check Policy and USOPC Background Check Policy Procedures have been recently introduced to compliment the US SafeSport Code.
Broader aspects of “Prohibited Conduct” have been narrowed within the US SafeSport Code. For example, Article IX of the same, establishes and thoroughly explains which act or offence can constitute “Criminal Charge”; “Child Abuse”; Sexual Misconduct”; “Emotional and Physical Misconduct”; “Aiding and Abetting”; “Misconduct Related to Reporting”; “Misconduct Related to the Centre’s Process”; “Other Inappropriate Conduct – Intimate Relationship, Exposing a Minor to Imagery, Intentional Exposure to Private Areas, Inappropriate Physical Contact”; and “Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies/Proactive Policies”.
There is a very thin line separating the near overlapping concepts of criminal and civil liability in sports. It assumes particular significance in relation to acts committed by or suffered by young adults and children. Therefore, a separate heading explaining criminal offences and how it can be differentiated from any other physical act is an important aspect that needs inclusion within the IOA Safe Sport Policy.
By explaining even basic terms like Aiding and Abetting, Criminal Charge, it can be seen that the US SafeSport Code has been drafted, keeping in mind that its readers are likely to be individuals with no or very basic education (general or legal). This is the reason why the entire document drafted by US SafeSport is highly detailed and well-articulated with simple words and properly segregated sections/headings. And this is the reason why its policies and codes maybe used as a reference by the IOA.
It is also important to note that special importance has been given to the issue of child abuse, by both the US SafeSport and the Government of Australia, which has also led to a release of separate documents like the Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies. IOA would do well to get inspired by the “user-friendly” approach of the US SafeSport Code and improve the IOA Safe Sport Policy to ensure individuals are able to make effective utilization of it, be it in the form of being able to read and understand its contents accurately or using it for their own benefits and safeguarding of rights. Additionally, IOA should introduce separate policies with a focus on the aggrieved sections of sporting community (i.e. women, children and the disabled).