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News Release

February 09, 2007

U of G Staff Member Pens IOC Sexual Harassment and Abuse Policy

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has adopted a “consensus statement” on sexual harassment and abuse that was written by Dr. Margo Mountjoy of the University of Guelph’s Health and Performance Centre in conjunction with experts from around the world.

The document defines the problems, identifies risk factors and provides guidelines for resolution and prevention. It also says that every sport association should have codes of practice, education and training, monitoring and evaluation systems and support mechanisms in place.

“Our goal is to improve the health and protection of athletes through the promotion of effective preventive policy,” said Mountjoy, a sports physician at Guelph for 19 years and a member of the IOC’s Medical Commission for the past two years.

“We also want to increase the awareness of these problems and encourage early intervention among the people in the entourage of the athletes.”

Research shows that sexual harassment and abuse happen in all sports and at all levels, with a greater prevalence in elite sport, according to the IOC. Studies have also shown that people who are in positions of power and authority over young athletes are the primary perpetrators. The risk of harassment and abuse is greater when there’s a lack of protection and a lack of awareness, the IOC said.

“Sexual harassment and abuse seriously and negatively affect an athlete’s physical and psychological health and his or her performance,” said Mountjoy. “No sport is immune to these problems. Everyone in sport shares the responsibility of identifying and preventing sexual harassment and abuse and developing a culture of dignity, respect and safety in sport.”

The consensus statement is the outcome of a conference on “Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport” held in Switzerland last fall that Mountjoy planned and co-ordinated. Participants included leading sports psychologists, sociologists, psychiatrists and international policy experts, as well as elite athlete advocates.

The document was written with help from IOC members, sports experts, psychologists and scholars from around the world, including Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and the Netherlands. Mountjoy is overseeing distribution and dissemination of the information.

“I hope this statement is the beginning of bringing a program beyond the borders of Canada to the greater global sporting community,” she said.

Mountjoy is also chair of the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA), the international federation that governs all aquatic sports. She conducted doping testing for FINA during the 2004 Olympic games. In addition, she was the physician for Canada’s synchronized swim team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the 2004 games in Athens.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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