A 2004 Olympic medalist marathon runner, who formally retired from the sport in 2005, became interested in community service. In 2017, the former athlete channeled their commitment to public service into a bid for a national public office. With the help of an army of volunteers, the campaign developed a platform and began to gain grass roots support. The former athlete lived and worked in the community and coached high school track and field. School officials and parents praised the athlete and coach as a person of great character, while the young athletes excelled in their track events and were developing in personal self-esteem and maturity.

While the former Olympic athlete gained in popularity and was well supported in their political campaign by the general public, their political opponent became fearful of losing the political contest if public support could not be swayed.

Seeing the creation of SafeSport in 2017 and reading about SafeSport policies, the political opponent decided that there was an opportunity to use SafeSport to cast a shadow on the former Olympic athlete. A SafeSport report was filed against the former athlete, claiming that while competing at the Olympics, they forced themselves on another athlete sexually. The political opponent made the SafeSport report public, smearing the spotless reputation and character of the marathon runner.

The local and national newspapers ran the story and the former Olympic athlete was forced to spend time and money getting to the bottom of this unsubstantiated charge. Although the local district attorney knew nothing of the charges, the police did not have a complaint on record, SafeSport took the report as true prior to investigation, publicly banned the former athlete and placed them on the SafeSport suspension list.

The former Olympic athlete’s political campaign was derailed and they lost their election and coaching position.

The marathon runner fought to clear his name successfully as the accusations could not be proven at even the lowest threshold used by SafeSport which is set at a preponderance of evidence. While the reversal of the SafeSport ruling was ultimately the correct outcome, it was too little too late. The marathon runner was defeated in their quest for public office and coaching positions dried up due to continued media scrutiny. SafeSport had been weaponized and a precedent was set for others seeking to harm perceived opponents.

Questions to Consider

What are the current statistics regarding SafeSport sanctions that are reversed?

How does SafeSport handle cases in which a Claimant files false allegations against a Respondent or otherwise improperly uses the SafeSport resolution process?

Is it SafeSport’s policy to pursue sanctions in those cases to uphold the integrity of the SafeSport process?

Is it fair to say SafeSport imposed and publicized the sanction prior to sufficiently investigating?

What institutional oversight safeguards and transparency requirements are in place to ensure SafeSport fulfills its mission fairly and competently?

Does Congress actively oversee the case by case resolution process at SafeSport?

Is Congressional oversight alone sufficient to protect the legitimate interests of all parties under SafeSport’s jurisdiction to ensure SafeSport fulfills its responsibilities as Congress intended?


Without sufficient safeguards and oversight, the SafeSport model is too easily weaponized which can severely punish individuals who are unfairly accused. There must be a more effective process between law enforcement and SafeSport to establish safety protocols regarding claim submission and SafeSport investigations. More oversight and transparency would inspire confidence in SafeSport among all participants who are under its jurisdiction and would strengthen SafeSport’s ability to fulfill its important mission to protect the safety of athletes.

Media contact
Diane Carney
[email protected]

SOURCE Athletes for Equity in Sport Inc.

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