Elite Olympic and Paralympic sports warned funding could be hit over athletes suffering with eating disorders

Jeremy Wilson
·2-min read
Gold medal-winning Paralympian Kadeena Cox has opened up about her her body image battle - GETTY IMAGES
Gold medal-winning Paralympian Kadeena Cox has opened up about her her body image battle - GETTY IMAGES

Elite Olympic and Paralympic sports have been warned that they could lose their funding if they do not provide adequate support for athletes who are suffering with eating disorders.

A BBC Panorama investigation into ‘Sport’s Hidden Crisis’ will be aired on Monday in which Colin Jackson, the former world champion and world record holder at the 110m hurdles, will discuss his own problems with food and explore why leading sportspeople are far more likely to have eating disorders than the wider population.

The Telegraph reported last year the “cry for help” from Kadeena Cox, a gold-medal winning Paralympian in athletics and cycling, who said that she could no longer remember what normal eating is. Andrew Flintoff, the former England cricketer, also revealed this year that he had been suffering with bulimia for the past 20 years.

UK Sport, which is the funding body for Olympic and Paralympic sport, has been attempting to tackle concerns with the culture in some elite sports amid repeated criticism that there has been an excessive focus simply on winning medals.

Dame Katherine Grainger, herself a multiple Olympic medallist and now the chair of UK Sport, said that sports must provide an environment in which athletes are comfortable to speak out and seek help if they do have eating disorders.

“If there's an environment where it's feeling uncomfortable and people are being pushed into situations they're not comfortable to be in, they can speak out and there are places to go that they can talk about it and it will be addressed,” she said.

Asked what the punishment would be for sports organisations that do not meet the correct standards, Grainger said: “If in a worst case scenario, if a sport wasn't to meet the right standards that are involved in the funding agreements that we have with them all, the ultimate thing that UK Sport could do is withdraw funding from a sport. It's very rarely used. But I think one of the biggest things is to work in partnership with the sports.

“I want to work in a world of sport where any athlete could speak at any point, about any issue. Would I say we're in that place right now? I think from a lot of the stories we've heard recently, there's a lot of athletes who still aren't comfortable about speaking out. I hate that they [the negative stories] exist and those stories have happened. But I want to know about them.”

  •  Panorama: Sport’s Hidden Crisis will be screened on BBC One on Monday at 7.40pm