January 18, 2022

“We must increase prevention and training actions,” said the founder of the Colosse aux pieds d’Argile association.

Since 2013, the association Colossus with feet of clay, founded by former rugby player Sébastien Boueilh, fights against sexual violence in sport. For this, it intervenes in the field by raising awareness of various sports players. The indictment of former swimmer Yannick Agnel for rape and sexual assault is a reminder of how much this social issue remains. For franceinfo: sport, the founder of the association takes stock of the situation and provides solutions.

Franceinfo: sport: Since the creation of Colossus with feet of clay, in 2013, do you feel that speech is freed more easily in the world of sport?

Sébastien Boueilh: We are getting there little by little. When I created the association, I came up with a taboo subject that was almost scary. There was a first change in 2016, when we professionalized the fight: we are now 22 employees. Then, the arrival of Roxana Maracineanu (Minister Delegate in charge of Sports, Editor’s note) marked a turning point.

Two months after taking office, in 2018, she summoned me. I explained to him the problems in the sport, especially the predators who, after serving their sentence, come back as volunteers. There was also the problem of violence of “minors on minors”, noticeable in particular in acts of hazing.

Concretely, what measures have been taken by the ministry?

Testimonies from high-level athletes appeared, the ministry reacted when the media echoed it. It has set up an agreement and a unit dedicated to reporting. A referent and a unit dedicated to this subject have been imposed in each federation. Much has changed over the past three years.

On our side, we intervene for the ministry on prevention and awareness-raising with the decentralized services of the State. We are in the field daily, we have provided more than 1000 interventions since January. We are now identified as experts. Before these cases, a dozen federations had agreements with us. They are now forty.

Can we expect the media coverage of the Agnel affair to accelerate this awareness?

Yes, it frees the floor of other victims. In its communication, the French Swimming Federation (partner of the association, Editor’s note) opened the doors to all victims in this discipline. There may be others.

I think we are at the beginning. High-level athletes have come out of the silence, but some federations do not follow suit to try to release other words.

Last September, Roxana Maracineanu spoke of 533 pending cases. Is this figure underestimated?

There is not a discipline which is not directly or indirectly affected by this scourge. Some “favor” the act: the more the child is naked, the more it attracts the eye: swimming, gym, athletics. They can therefore be victims of voyeurism.

10 million minors practice sport in France, I think we are far from the real figures. 500 is not much, but at the same time it is a lot compared to what we had before. Afterwards, we in the field are not surprised. It’s our daily life, we receive testimonials every day.

In some cases, violence comes from the relationship of domination between a coach and an athlete. What means are implemented to limit this control?

This is the whole issue of the coach / coach relationship. We can also find ourselves in cases of minors who want to please their trainer. If it is fragile, it can fall into sexual assault.

To make people aware that it is forbidden, we must increase prevention and training actions. As long as you have authority over a minor, even if both consent, you have to wait until she is of age to have sex. Everything will necessarily go through training. The more we multiply the actions on the ground, the more people will pick up the signals sent by the victims.