Athletics Auckland and Athletics NZ have been made aware of an allegation that, in the late 1980s, a young female athlete was sexually assaulted by a team official whilst part of an Auckland Athletics Team.
We understand that the athlete was 11 years old at the time, and now, having recently seen the harrowing but critically important documentary Athlete A, she has spoken out about what happened.
The team official involved died over 10 years ago.
First, we want to recognise the extreme bravery it takes to talk about this, the immense hurt caused to this person, and the hurt that she has been living with in silence, for over 30 years.
Both Athletics Auckland and Athletics NZ have offered her our unreserved apology that this happened to her whilst she was participating in our sport.
Abuse and mistreatment of athletes, particularly child athletes, is abhorrent and unacceptable.
Society, and sport, is much more alive to the horrors of this kind of behaviour today than it was 30 years ago.
The bravery of victims, such as this victim, who are willing to speak out about what happened to them, has enabled us to recognise and deal with, rather than ignore and avoid, the societal problems of sexual assault.
Athletics NZ has for the past three years operated an accredited coach membership, whereby all coaches who wish to coach an Athletics NZ team undergo Police vetting, child safety education and sign our Code of Conduct before being permitted to apply for any team roles.
Athletics NZ launched a community coach membership option in 2019, which includes Police vetting, child safety education and signing our Code of Conduct for coaches operating at all levels in our sport.
Athletics NZ does not select, manage or send any children's (under 16) teams, with the youngest representative teams being Under 18 Championships.
All managers and coaches for those teams are Accredited Coaches or Athletics NZ staff members.
We have consulted with our regional athletics centres and have agreement to mandate police vetting and child safety education for team managers and all other official roles involved in domestic Athletics teams involving children.
Athletics NZ also has in place a Member Protection and Anti-Harassment Regulation, which sets out Athletics NZ's commitment to ensuring that every person participating in Athletics is treated with respect and dignity and is protected from discrimination, harassment, and abuse.
In particular, this Regulation seeks to safeguard the welfare of children involved in Athletics by promoting safe practices and protecting children from harm and exploitation while participating in Athletics.
Athletics NZ also has a Child Safety Policy for its staff aligned with good practice guidelines from Sport NZ.
However, we are conscious that this is a complex problem, which isn't solved by policies, vetting and checks alone.
Education, awareness, and the provision of avenues for athletes and others to report abuse and bullying are a critical part of combatting this insidious behaviour also.
Sport NZ and its related body High Performance Sport New Zealand are leading the sporting community's response to these risks, and both Athletics NZ and Athletics Auckland are supportive of their initiatives.
We consider athlete welfare to be one of the most important issues in sport today, and we are committed to being part of the dialogue around the issue with athletes, the government, and other sports.
For our part, we are constantly reviewing the policies and processes we have in place, and we will investigate what happened to this athlete further (in cooperation with her), and if there are any lessons for us to learn as a sport, to further protect our participants, especially our children, we will certainly do that.
It is important to us that we, and all our member organisations throughout New Zealand, are taking all the steps we can to ensure that we minimise the risk of abuse happening in our sport in the future.
If any person has suffered abuse in sport, or in any other part of their life, we encourage them to talk to someone about it, whether that is a friend, someone in authority, or by seeking help through a support line.
Support lines you can call include the Ministry of Social Development's helpline Safe To Talk:
* Calling: 0800 044 334
* Texting: 4334
* Emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Live webchat on www.safetotalk.nz which also has a range of resources and information about sexual harm.
Together we must take responsibility for making sport safe for all people, especially our children.
We are devastated to hear of the abuse this person suffered in our sport, 30 years ago. However, we wish to assure everyone involved in athletics, and all New Zealand, that we are committed to doing everything we can to help stamp out abuse in our sport.
Both Athletics Auckland and Athletics NZ would like to reiterate their grave disappointment that someone involved our sport behaved like this.
We are committed to do everything we can to protect the participants in our sport and ensuring that Athletics is a safe sport for all involved, especially our children.
Athletics Auckland and Athletics New Zealand