By Trust Mtegha
Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC), with support from the Olympic Solidarity, organized a six-day symposium to safeguard its athletes, officials and other stakeholders against harassment, abuse, roping and COVID-19.
The symposium was jointly organised with International Olympic Committee (IOC) from August 25 to 30 that targeted 34 selected participants from athletes commission, athletes and coaches from various national federations.
The safeguarding policy is to help sport to reach its maximum potential and use sport as an effective tool for social and economic development.
According to IOC, harassment and abuse can be expressed in five forms which include psychological abuse; physical abuse; sexual harassment; sexual abuse and neglect.
Harassment and abuse often result from an abuse of authority and on the other hand, doping is defined by institutions such as World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the IOC as the taking of banned substances or using prohibited methods to enhance or maintain sporting performance.
WADA abhors doping as being fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport and its anti-doping program seeks to preserve the spirit of the game to maintain ethics, fair play, honesty and protect the athletes’ health.
Coordinator of the symposium, MOC treasurer Henry Sakala, disclosed that there are a lot of cases of harassment and abuse in Malawi sport, though the victims are mostly reluctant to make official complaints.
“Many harassed and abused athletes or officials do not know how to go about with making an official complaint,” he said.
“For example, there are tales that some coaches entice an athlete that if he/she is to be considered in the national squad or any team, the athlete must share part of their allowances to the coach or else they will be dropped.
“Unfortunately our officials who are entrusted to handle such cases if reported, do not act on them and this discourages the victims and many just opt out of sport.
“That is why this symposium was important — [to empower the athletes to push for their cases to be heard]”
On doping, Sakala said though Malawian athletes have never failed tested positive to taking banned performance enhancing substances, it is still important that athletes and all stakeholders are empowered to know and understand why doping abhorred globally.
There were three other facilitators — Ausborne Banda, who did harassment and abuse, Yona Walesi on doping and MOC president Jappie Mhango, who took the participants through on Coronavirus in relation to sport.
Volleyball Association of Malawi (VAM) general secretary Jairos Nkhoma said the symposium was an eye opener and encouraged the organisers not to stop here.
“Malawi volleyball has for long not included fundamental aspects of harassment and abuse and anti-doping in its mainstream organisation at regional or national,” he said.
“We must take them seriously. Our clubs need to discourage tendencies of harassment and abuse especially towards athletes.
“Volleyball enthusiasts should develop a culture of reading especially on the subject matter so that they control the vices.”