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Youth athletes’ quests for gold: does opportunity supersede undue risk?
  1. Michael F Bergeron1,
  2. Margo Mountjoy2,
  3. John T Wendt3
  1. 1Performance Health, WTA Women's Tennis Association, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Ethics and Business Law, University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael F Bergeron, Performance Health, WTA Women's Tennis Association, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; mbergeron{at}

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The rise (and risk) of youth-oriented world-class sport

With earlier emphasis on athletic/sport opportunities and achievement, coincident with expansion of new ‘youth-oriented’ sports (eg, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing) at the Olympic Games, increasingly we are witnessing younger participants on this premier world stage. This raises numerous concerns regarding ethics and the long-term effects on these youth athletes. Certain risks and potential consequences were on full display with Russian teenager Kamila Valieva and her coach (with the apparent dysfunctional relationship, mental pressures and emotional abuse possibly extending beyond her immediate postperformance pursuit of the young skater for answers to the flawed routine in the women’s single free skating final) at the recent Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Unfortunately, unacceptable behaviour by adults toward youth athletes is too commonplace. Although this concerning display in Beijing appropriately triggered widespread public condemnation, the lasting impact on this young girl’s life may be severe.

Whereas global prevalence of doping in youth sport is unclear, case reports reveal the phenomena at the elite level. However, non-doping related harassment and abuse is recognisably widespread. Over 10 000 European athletes reported an alarming prevalence of psychological abuse (65%), physical abuse (44%), neglect (37%), and sexual abuse (non-contact: 35%; contact: 20%) during sport while under age 18.1 The Summer Youth Olympic …

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  • Contributors MFB, MM and JTW all contributed significantly to conceptual development and writing, reviewing and finalising this commentary.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.