May 7, 2016 / 6:11 AM / 3 years ago

Child protection as important as doping battle: Australian Olympic Committee chief

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Sports organizations will be expected to establish and comply with a child protection policy or their athletes will not be considered for future Games, the head of the Australian Olympic Committee said on Saturday.

John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) speaks at a media conference in Sydney August 23, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

The announcement by AOC President John Coates came on the back of a commitment he made last month to an Australian royal commission on child abuse.

“Without a Member Protection Policy their athletes cannot compete at the Games,” Coates said on Saturday at the AOC’s AGM in Sydney.

“It is not negotiable, we will reject anyone whose sport has not implemented a child protection policy.”

Coates said the decision would put child abuse on the same level as doping.

“Every sport in Australia has to comply with the world anti-doping code, why shouldn’t the same importance be placed on child abuse?” he added.

“This matter is urgent, we are talking about the safety of young children.”

National sporting bodies would need to have the policy implemented in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in South Korea, he said.

Olympic officials currently undergo child safety checks, but the new policy would encompass the entire sport.

Coates added that he was pleased with the progress of the selection of the Australian team and felt it was on target to meet its goal of top-five finish at Rio.

Australia were 10th on the table in London four years ago.

“I have a very good feel about this team,” Coates said. “We are anticipating around 440 athletes with representation across 26 of the 28 Olympic sports.

“That will make the Australian team one of the largest at the Games and our second largest away team ever.

“We have good cause to maintain our top five gold and overall medal targets.”

A member of the inspection committee for the Rio Games, Coates said he was impressed by the progress being made in preparing the city to host the extravaganza “against a background of unprecedented domestic challenges, politically and economically”.

“Rio (organizers) are ready to rise to the challenges and deliver Olympic and Paralympic Games that will reflect the Brazilians warmth, hospitality and passion for sport,” he said.

The Rio Olympics open on Aug. 5.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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