Safe Sport: Protect Yourself!

What do we mean when we talk about safe sport?

Safe sport is defined as an athletic environment that is respectful, equitable and free from all forms of harassment and abuse.

Harassment and abuse can take different forms, and sometimes it is not always clear cut or obvious that harassment and abuse is occurring. This means it is important to understand what may constitute harassment and abuse. It is important to remember however that definitions can vary between countries and organisations.    

In this document we will use the definitions provided in the IOC Consensus Statement: harassment and abuse in sport (2016).

There are categories of harassment and abuse. Each can occur in isolation or in combination with one or more of the others.

There are different categories of harassment and abuse.

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse is at the core of all other forms of harassment and abuse.  It is considered the “Gateway” to other types of abuse.

Psychological abuse can consist of behaviours that belittle, humiliate, scapegoat, reject, or isolate an athlete. It often involves shouting and threats, but can also manifest in the form of neglect, like not providing attention or support.

It is often a pattern of deliberate, prolonged, repeated non-contact behaviour by a person of authority on an individual of lesser status.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any conduct of a sexual nature, whether non-contact, contact or penetrative, where consent is coerced/manipulated or is not or cannot be given.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any unwanted and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal or physical. Sexual harassment can take the form of sexual abuse.

Here are some examples: here

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming an athlete.

This could include forced or mandated inappropriate physical activity (for example, age-, or physique-inappropriate training loads; training when when injured or in pain); direct physical abuse, dangerous training methods, unsafe sporting environments, forced alcohol consumption; or systematic doping practices.


Neglect is defined as the failure to meet a person’s physical and emotional needs when the means, knowledge and access to services to do so exist; or failure to protect them from exposure to danger.

In sport, neglect can result in preventable accidents, recurrent injuries, malnutrition, eating disorders, dehydration and self-harm behaviours.


Homophobia is defined in the IOC Consensus Statement (2016) as Antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion or hatred towards lesbian, gay or bisexual individuals.

Here are some examples: here


Hazing means an organised, usually team-based, form of bullying in sport, involving degrading and hazardous initiation of new team members by veteran team members.

Here are some examples: here


Practising sport safely is not just about avoiding injuries. For an athlete, there are other aspects to safe sport that you should be aware of. A healthy body image and the prevention of harassment and abuse in sport are two subjects on which the IOC is working constantly, to raise awareness and safeguard athletes.

If any of these examples strike a chord with you, you should talk about it. For more information on harassment and abuse in sport, visit the Safe Sport Section of the Olympic Athletes’ Hub.  

Eating disorders

Many athletes have image problems linked to their appearance or weight. This may be harmful to both their mental and physical health.

Problems like anorexia or bulimia are frequent, and may have serious consequences, like the female athlete triad. This is a syndrome involving three pathologies: a lack of energy (caused by poor diet habits or physical overtraining) amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and osteoporosis (weakening of the bones due to a drop-in bone density and an imbalance in bone formation). A female athlete may suffer from all or some of these pathologies. Learn more about this here.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses linked to their body. Remember that it’s important to eat a balanced diet if you want to perform, and comparing yourself to others isn’t a solution. 

Abuse in sport

Try out IOC educational tool related to the prevention of harassment and abuse in sport.

Athlete Learning Gateway

If you want to find out more about this topic, check out the “Safeguarding Athletes from Harassment and Abuse” course via the IOC’s Athlete Learning Gateway.

The female athlete triad

Learn more about the female athlete triad.

Body image

Watch some stories about body image.

Child Helpline

Want to talk but don’t know who to tell? Talk about it via the Child Helpline.