Cases of abuse in sport have emerged in frightening regularity over the past two decades and coincide with the rise of athletes seeking greater involvement in sport’s governance. However, little is known about athlete perceptions of the systematic organizational-level problems that fail to curtail sexual abuse. In this study, we explore what athletes believe are the key issues in governance that facilitate sexual abuse in sport. An analysis of lawsuits athletes filed against US sport organizations and testimony they provided to the US Congress, from 2017 to 2022, show four ways in which organizational culture, decisions, and policies helped permit misconduct in sport. Athlete perspectives suggest governance issues related to monopolistic power structures, athlete representation, conflicts of interest, and commercialization facilitated an abuse-prone culture within Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United States. These findings show that athletes feel that the adjudication mechanisms that remain connected to national and international sport bodies do not always curtail abuse and support those who have questioned approaches that are driven from within the sport sector and argue that sport’s self-regulation of abuse and mistreatment is not working.
Associate Professor, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Denmark Lindsay Pieper
Associate Professor, Sport Management, University of Lynchburg, Virginia, United States
Governance, Abuse, Athletes, Sport Organisations