Exclusive: Fivefold increase in British Olympic and Paralympic athletes reporting welfare concerns

Ben Rumsby
·2 min read
People wearing face masks pose for photographs next to Olympic Rings  - Getty Images
People wearing face masks pose for photographs next to Olympic Rings - Getty Images

There is set to be a fivefold increase in the number of Olympic and Paralympic athletes reporting welfare concerns to the British Athletes Commission this year compared with two years ago, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

The BAC, which represents the interests of members of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, confirmed its caseload had soared in the first half of 2020, raising serious questions over the industry’s response to the athlete welfare scandal to have engulfed it in the past four years.

The organisation said that since it began recording the number of cases it handled back in 2018, the overall number had doubled from around 40 that year to 80 so far this.

It also said that the proportion of those that related to welfare had gone up from 15 per cent to 21 per cent over the same period, meaning it was tracking for a minimum fivefold increase.

BAC chief executive Mahdi Choudhury told Telegraph Sport these increases did not “necessarily reflect that things are getting worse in the system”, crediting it to “our growing reputation amongst the athlete membership and where we are in the [four-year Olympic and Paralympic] funding cycle”.

However, that would suggest the true number of athletes with welfare concerns in the past had been much higher than the data shows.

The BAC has grown in size in the past two years thanks to a doubling of its funding by UK Sport, which bankrolls the organisation.

Asked whether the £296,000 a year it currently received was enough, Choudhury said: “We, as an organisation, are lean and mean and we could be a bit fatter to help support the athlete bodies.”

Meanwhile, UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger has revealed that its board is to discuss triggering an “industry-wide” look at how the sector handles integrity-related matters after gymnastics became the latest sport to be forced to agree to an independent review of abuse allegations.

That scandal has led to renewed calls for greater independence in the system, including for the BAC to be funded directly by the Government – a move Choudhury said he would support.

He added: “We desire more independence to be able to really hold the system to account.”