U of T experts help draft Madrid Declaration to end violence against athletes

Professor Gretchen Kerr (2nd from left) and Associate Professor Ashley Stirling (3rd from left) attended the Inaugural Safe Sport International Congress in Madrid last month with three graduate students (from left to right): Ellen MacPherson, Erin Willson and Alexia Tam. (photo courtesy of Gretchen Kerr)


Professor Gretchen Kerr and Associate Professor Ashley Stirling of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education traveled last week to Madrid, Spain, to participate in the inaugural Safe Sport International Conference: Challenging Violence in Sport. Professor Kerr was an invited speaker on the topic of Caring for Kids: Preventative Initiatives. At the end of the conference, the delegates’ wrote the Madrid Declaration to end violence against athletes, which was drafted in part by Kerr and Stirling, who are renowned for their expertise in research related to athlete maltreatment. Kerr is also a long-standing athlete welfare officer. We followed up with her to learn more about the declaration’s key recommendations and the next steps.

How did the Safe Sport International Conference come about?

There has been a rapidly growing awareness amongst various stakeholders in sport as well as the observing public that some athletes’ experiences in sport are characterized by violence and maltreatment. Coinciding with this enhanced awareness, sport administrators, scientists and athlete advocates are becoming increasingly concerned about the damaging effects of violence and maltreatment on the athlete, as well as on the ethical and social basis of sport. The Safe Sport International Conference was designed to bring together researchers, policy makers, sport administrators, survivors of maltreatment in sport and other sport practitioners from across the globe to develop strategies and a framework for ensuring sport is a safe and healthy place for all.


What are some of the key recommendations from the Madrid Declaration?

The Madrid Declaration recommends that the welfare, safety and rights of all athletes be the central consideration in the planning, administration and delivery of sport; that various stakeholders work together with appropriate partners to prevent and respond to violence against athletes; and that a strong international community makes an explicit and shared commitment to transform the culture of sport through the prioritization of the health and well-being of all children and adults in sport.

What happens next?

Various partners across the globe will have opportunities to sign onto the Madrid Declaration. Strategic partnerships will be established between researchers, policy-developers, sport administrators and non-sport child and human rights organizations to pursue the development, implementation and evaluation of safe sport initiatives. And, an international scholarly association will be formed to advance research on Safe Sport.

The next Safe Sport Conference is scheduled for 2020 in Quebec City.

Read Q & A with Gretchen Kerr on safeguarding athletes from maltreatment

Read Q & A with Ashley Stirling on what the Larry Nassar case can teach us