Anna Gordon: Ex-athlete says 'big questions' about Scottish Athletics' commitment to welfare

By Jane LewisBBC Scotland
Anna Gordon
Scottish Athletics say Gordon's feedback has been passed to a UK Athletics review of safeguarding procedures

There are "big questions" as to whether Scottish Athletics is prioritising the welfare of young athletes, says former pole vaulter Anna Gordon.

In 2013, she made allegations of sexual abuse against a coach; he was found not guilty after a trial.

Last year Gordon, 23, held talks with Scottish Athletics as she felt the procedures and support for athletes reporting abuse were inadequate.

But she says the governing body has not responded after those discussions.

"I think there's a big question to be asked as to whether we are putting the health and safety of our young athletes above the reputation of our coaches and the people in the governing body," Gordon told BBC Scotland.

"That's not to say that everyone out there isn't doing their job properly and it's all horrific but there are cases that haven't been handled well and I think more needs to be done.

"I think we've seen a lot of good talk. I think it's more putting their money where their mouth is a little bit. If that's their belief - that young athletes do come first - then more action needs to be done to show that."

Among the ideas Gordon put forward was the introduction of a group of trained athletes, who could act as a bridge between young children and welfare officers to allow abuse allegations to be reported.

She claims Scottish Athletics were supportive of the idea, but after emailing further details in December 2019, has yet to receive a response.

The governing body says Gordon's recommendations formed part of its feedback to a UK Athletics review into safeguarding procedures, which began in December and is scheduled to report its findings this year.

"Scottish Athletics are 100% compliant with national standards in child well-being and protection in sport which is required by sportscotland of all national governing bodies," a spokesperson said.

"During the lockdown period we have conducted a detailed safeguarding survey and have received responses from 60 clubs."

Welfare officer Angus Macdonald added Scottish Athletics has "robust and highly-regarded safeguarding procedures", changes to which "require careful consideration and take time."

Gordon told BBC Scotland last year that when she alleged abuse, she was shunned and insulted by fellow athletes and their parents.

Having now retired from the sport, the 10-time Scottish champion has launched a website called Signpost to Safety, aimed at supporting track and field athletes in the UK.

It provides information, as well as access to athletes trained by the NSPCC who can impart advice on what to do if someone thinks they have been abused.

"It's 12 athletes from all the different countries and they can act as a friendly first point of contact for anyone who doesn't know who to talk to or is struggling to reach out themselves," Gordon said.

"They are people who I would have spoken to when I was looking for someone to reach out to, it's something that I did myself when I didn't feel able to reach out to a welfare officer.

"I was just reaching out randomly to any athlete who would listen, which arguably wasn't the best thing I could have done."