Hayley Wickenheiser on athlete harassment: 'You name it, I've heard it'
Published Monday, February 5, 2018 10:00PM EST
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser has a message for athletes targeted with harassment: Don’t be afraid to seek help.
The hockey champ has been enlisted to help spread the message that the International Olympic Committee has a program in place to help athletes facing abuse.
“We are there for you,” she says in a video posted to Twitter. “We believe in you,” she adds. “We’ll do the best thing possible to protect every athlete that’s competing at the Olympic Games.”
Wickenheiser tells CTV’s Joy Malbon in Pyeongchang that the abuse exposed at U.S.A. Gymnastics and the #MeToo movement made clear that the IOC has “to take a stronger stance.”
As a female growing up in a male-dominated sport, Wickenheiser says she’s known countless athletes who have faced “challenges” and that it’s “more common than people would think.”
“You name it, I’ve heard it,” she says. “Even some of the hazing or initiations I was put through when I was a younger player -- today you would never be allowed to do that in minor hockey, both male and female.”
Wickenheiser says that abuse and harassment is “not OK” but sometimes athletes are afraid to speak up, “because they don’t feel they have a voice or they’ll have their spot on the team.”
“There’s a lot of power you give away as an athlete to people that can control your fate and that’s a scary thing for athletes -- especially when something goes wrong,” she says.
Still, the former team captain says people shouldn’t be afraid to approach the IOC’s Safeguarding Officers, who can refer them to legal or medical experts confidentially.
“There’s been athletes that have used it,” Wickenheiser says from the athletes village, where posters are plastered advertising the service.
“I believe in Rio there were approximately 12 cases that came forward.”
With a report from CTV’s Joy Malbon in Pyeongchang, South Korea