Bullying, emotional abuse was common in elite Dutch triathlon training program: Report
A new report into accusations of abuse at the Dutch Triathlon Association (NTB) confirmed that transgressive behavior was a frequent complaint of many of the athletes invited to spend time at the national training center in Sittard. The new study looked at the period of 2007-2021, and included interviews with 28 athletes, 16 staff members, eight parents, and eight board members. Questionnaires were also given to athletes to detail their experiences, and related documents were also examined, said research firm Unravelling.
The previously issued apology to current and former athletes may not be enough. Financial compensation may need to be given in some cases, the report said. Athletes who participated in the program and who wanted to raise concerns often faced barriers to do so for fear of retaliation.
Some athletes who left the program reported they sometimes experienced “serious mental and/or physical problems, such as eating problems, depressed feelings and overtraining.” At the Sittard facility, the athletes said they were subjected to “bullying, emotional abuse, feeling provoked to weight loss and feeling provoked to over-training.”
One particular issue was that some of the young athletes who were invited to train and live at the Sittard location “were not ready for it in terms of age and development.” This led some athletes to experience intense loneliness in a program that did not promote the development or education of younger people.
Not everyone interviewed agreed with the study’s conclusions. Other athletes and staff members said the sports program adequately protected those who participated. However, the report also said that when problems did become evident, this was often either not noticed by the program’s management and staff, or issues were “deliberately brushed aside.”
The report said that, "Partly due to the lack of a social antenna, some staff members overlooked signs of loneliness, depression, injuries and overtraining.”