Two new important and tangible initiatives aiming to further protect the physical and mental well-being of athletes were presented today to the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC): the IOC Safe Sport Action Plan and the Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit. Both projects are part of the practical implementation of Recommendation 5 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5, underlining the IOC’s commitment to developing programmes and initiatives to ensure that every athlete can train and compete in a safe sporting environment.
The IOC Safe Sport Action Plan, written following a consultation process with internal and external stakeholders, is aligned with the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, and sets forth six objectives.
The first four objectives, which concern the IOC’s responsibility as the leader of the Olympic Movement, aim to inspire and support the Olympic Movement in fostering safe sport and athlete well-being worldwide by 2030. These objectives are:
Two additional objectives are directly related to the IOC’s responsibility as the owner of the Olympic Games and strive to ensure that the Olympic Games are at the forefront in the field of athlete safeguarding and well-being. These objectives – as stated in Recommendation 5 of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 – are:
The full Safe Sport Action Plan can be found here.
An IOC Safe Sport Unit will be established in the IOC Medical and Scientific Department, and will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of these objectives, in consultation with the IOC Prevention of Harassment and Abuse in Sport Working Group, chaired by IOC Member HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein.
Over the last four years, the IOC has expanded its efforts to foster and promote safe sporting environments at the Olympic and Youth Olympic Games and across the entire Olympic Movement. These efforts have included the publication of the IOC Athletes Safeguarding Toolkit and the implementation of the IOC Safeguarding Games-time Framework at each edition of the Olympic and Youth Olympic Games.
Although significant progress has been made, research, combined with extensive stakeholder consultation, has highlighted that more needed to be done to address the prevention of harassment and abuse in sport.
An IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit has been developed to assist Olympic Movement stakeholders, including International Federations (IFs), NOCs, National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), athletes’ entourage members, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders such as National Federations, clubs and teams, in developing and implementing initiatives related to the protection and promotion of mental health and well-being among elite athletes.
The Toolkit provides an overview of mental health symptoms and disorders most commonly seen in elite athletes, and the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholder groups in creating psychologically safe athletic environments, as well as additional IOC resources, information, and educational programmes.
It supports and complements the information related to mental health and well-being already available to athletes through the IOC Athlete365 #MentallyFit campaign, which can be found on the Athlete365 community page.
The Toolkit is a joint initiative by the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission and the IOC Athletes’ and Athletes’ Entourage commissions. It has been developed under the expert guidance of the IOC Mental Health Working Group and a Virtual Task Force composed of representatives from IFs, NOCs and NPCs.
Abhinav Bindra, Olympic champion and member of both the IOC Athletes’ Commission and the IOC Mental Health Working Group, reaffirmed how critical it is for athletes to consider their mental health as being as important as their physical health: “Human well-being must be at the heart of elite athletic performance. Athletes should feel empowered and nurtured both physically and mentally. Mental health and physical health are two halves of a whole, and care for both must be seen as a priority.”
The need for guidance and support in the area of mental health has been further magnified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with a 2020 Athlete365 survey finding that 32 per cent of athlete respondents noted having difficulty managing mental health.
The IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit can be downloaded here.