World Athletics has found that “disturbing” levels of online abuse were directed at female competitors during Tokyo 2020.
A study from the administrative body of 161 past or present athletes revealed “sexist, racists, transphobic and homophobic posts, and unfounded doping accusations”.
Of the 161 accounts tracked, 23 received directly targeted abuse, 16 of which were female. Two female, black athletes received a combined 63% of the identified abuse; nearly 90% of abuse identified was sent to female athletes.
“This research is disturbing in so many ways but what strikes me the most is that the abuse is targeted at individuals who are celebrating and sharing their performances and talent as a way to inspire and motivate people,” said World Athletics President Seb Coe of the study.
“To face the kinds of abuse they have is unfathomable and we all need to do more to stop this. Shining a light on the issue is just the first step.”
“When we published our Safeguarding Policy earlier this month, I said athletics clubs, schools and community sports environments should be safe and happy places for those in our sport,
“In a world where we share so much of our lives online, this must apply to the virtual, as well as the physical world.”
The study found that the overwhelming majority of racist abuse was directed towards American athletes.
World Athletics has passed on posts deemed beyond a criminal threshold to law enforcement.
The body has said that they will conduct further research in this area and have used the findings of the study to introduce an Online Abuse Framework for their own social media channels to ensure they are environments free from abuse.
World Athletics has also pledged to remove hate speech and bullying from comments sections beneath their channels, and ensure that they celebrate equality and diversity in sport.