Responsibilities not assumed and deficient prevention … the revelations of several swimmers and skaters question the organization of sport in France.
Speech continues to be released in the sports environment. Several skaters and swimmers denounced Wednesday in The team and The Obs sexual violence suffered when they were adolescents.
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Former figure skater Hélène Godard notably reported having two sexual relationships with her former trainer at 14 and 15 years old. Anne Bruneteaux and Béatrice Dumur, two other skaters, accuse a trainer of sexual assault and rape. Swimmers Frédérique Weber and Elisabeth Douet, 13 and 14 years old at the time, explained that their former coach had sexually assaulted them in the late 1980s, in sport-study at Font-Romeu. Former tennis player Isabelle Demongeot also testifies against her former coach. She accuses him of having raped her.
Finally, Sarah Abitbol, ten times champion of French figure skating in pairs, multi-medalist at the European and World Championships, also accused her former trainer, Gilles Beyer, of having raped her several times in 1990 and 1992, when she was 15 years old. The latter conceded on Friday that he had “intimate” and “inappropriate” relations with her.
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Already in mid-December, journalists from the We Report collective, after a long investigation into pedophilia in sport in France since 1970, denounced an omerta: “Football, gymnastics, horse riding, athletics but also archery, roller skating or chess … 28 sports disciplines are concerned. These tragedies claimed at least 276 victims in sports, most of them children under the age of 15 at the time of the events, “they wrote less than two years ago. month.
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, in reaction to the revelations on Wednesday, said she wanted to “empower” the federations, accused of inaction. What are the avenues for preventing sexual assault and accompanying victims? L’Express takes stock with several speakers from the world of sport.
- A problem with the organization of sport in France?
“Everyone is outraged, even those who already knew about it, so let’s talk about the solutions.” Julian Jappert is Director General of the Sport and Citizenship think tank. A lawyer, he immediately stressed, like all of our interlocutors, the existence of a system, in theory in the best of all worlds, sufficient: “Criminal law, because the best device is already that of ordinary law”.
Véronique Lebar, president of the Ethics and Sport Committee, adds to L’Express that “nothing is specific to sport, but what is provided for any state executive is Article 40 of the Criminal Code, which requires an official, when he has wind of important and serious problems, to refer it by a complaint to the public prosecutor “.
However, the omerta remains present. Why ? “Because the world of sport is managed in consanguinity, it creates its own rules, and therefore does not control itself or poorly,” continues Julian Jappert.
The lawyer sees in particular an excessive self-esteem problem: “Sport does not open up to other sectors, such as education and training. A young sportsman removed from his family and school environment must not stay in a vacuum in a place where he will only frequent people linked to his sporting activity. The young person must be able to access other places of socialization, in order to be better equipped intellectually to allow him to realize the nature of possible pressures exercised by a predator. ”
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Near BFMTV, the psychiatrist Muriel Salmona, president of the association Traumatic memory and specialist in the care of victims of sexual violence, shared the same observation on high-level sport, qualified as “dissociating activity”, because “the student finds himself isolated and disconnected from the outside world, and therefore more vulnerable. ”
“Isolated” and “vulnerable”, terms used by former skaters and swimmers who spoke in The team and The Obs Wednesday.
Beyond the internal functioning of sports clubs, Julian Jappert targets the governance model: “Who directs sport in France? Everyone is passing the buck, while opposite, there are victims. Or the ministry governs, or it is the sports movement, but once decided, responsibility is assigned and this is very important, because responsibility implies action. ”
He cites the examples of “strong sports ministries, attached to other sectors, such as the Interior or Health, in Luxembourg, in Belgium, in Sweden. Or else the State withdraws from its questions, and then it is the sports movement that leads, like in Italy for example. These are not perfect systems, but the responsibility is clearly identified, and when we are responsible, we are more attentive, and we therefore make clearer decisions “.
- How to identify the attackers?
A first step was taken in this direction by Roxana Maracineanu. As part of the charges brought by Sarah Abitbol against her former coach, the president of the ice sports federation, Didier Gailhaguet, in office since 1998, will be received on Monday by the Minister of Sports, to explain the retention of Gilles Beyer despite multiple reports. In addition, a meeting is to be held on February 20 with associations at the Ministry of Sports to develop avenues for reflection.
Louis-Frédéric Doyez, former CEO of the French Swimming Federation from 2005 to 2017, explains to L’Express, while ensuring never to have been confronted with such a case during his mandate, that “the problem of the federations is that in the absence of lodging of complaint, they consider that that means that there is nothing. And when there is a complaint, they defer to justice and discharge themselves by saying that it no longer concerns them. ”
Pending concrete progress, a first measure is being tested in Center-Val-de-Loire on 10,000 members of the French football federation. “The authorities are testing the verification of the criminal record B2 of the volunteers, the one containing the possible convictions for sexual crimes”, details Véronique Lebar, who will go to the meeting at the ministry at the end of February.
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The idea had been blown at the end of 2018 to the Minister of Sports by the former rugby player Sébastien Boueilh, victim of rape when he was a child and president of the Colosse association at the feet of Clay: “We had noted that educators condemned, after serving their sentence, return to the sporting sector as a volunteer and reproduce the facts for which they were convicted. Why the French football federation? Because it is the structure that has the most knowledgeable licenses for volunteers So that makes filtering easier. We hope that it will be generalized to all disciplines and all federations. ”
“Radiation for life must also be transmitted to all federations, adds Louis-Frédéric Doyez. That we cannot find someone excluded in swimming licensed in basketball. It is possible by setting up a database within the ministry for example. ”
The former director of the swimming federation also pleads for the establishment of a referent in each federation, like Guy Missoum, former boss of the sports psychology laboratory at Insep, who justified this measure with the Huff post by the need to assess coaches “other than on the champion’s CV”.
- How to help victims to express themselves?
Sébastien Boueilh indicates to L’Express that “the victims can approach associations like ours, but there are others, to speak with professionals, with people like me, who have experienced this. Talking with another sportsman frees speech. I still had the experience yesterday in the West Indies, a 15 year old kid who came to tell me about the rape he suffered. He never said anything to anyone. We reported it to the justice system and he will be entitled to support. ”
For Louis-Frédéric Doyez, “from the moment a word is heard, it is necessary to use a protective measure by lifting the license. Even if it is difficult to deal with, because it is word against word before investigation. The federation should systematically bring a civil action with the person who reports. We have become ruthless on doping, so we must have the same intransigence with sex offenders, “said the former head of the federation.