France is struggling to deal with a bombshell report detailing serious failures in sports governance and administration within the country that will host the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the Winter Olympics 2030. One of the proposals is an independent integrity body, an idea originally championed by Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. Now she has become the country’s Minister for Sport, she has changed her mind.
An Omertà on allegations of sexual abuse ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics; financial irregularities; failures to adhere to the French Sports Code; failure to implement legislative reforms; mistruths told to investigators and more. The list of failures by French sporting authorities outlined in the 419 pages of a recent report into operational failures within the French sporting movement are too numerous to list.
"In the three areas investigated by the Committee of Inquiry (violence, discrimination, breaches of integrity), its work highlighted the systemic nature of the malfunctions that originate in the governance of the sporting world and its special relationship with the State. These systemic dysfunctions concern both the actions of the State and the internal governance of the federations."
But more astounding is the refusal of the French sporting administration to engage with many of its 62 recommendations.
Has pressure been put on French sporting authorities to delay the implementation of reform until after the Paris 2024 Olympics? It would appear that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has form in this area. Did it apply pressure to change Minister Oudéa-Castéra’s mind?
In 2018, politicians Pierre-Alain Raphan and Aude Amadou proposed a law mandating equality in terms of the numbers of men and women that serve on sporting bodies by January 2024. The law proposed parity on the organising bodies of the Olympic Games, such as the Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français (CNOSF). It was passed on 2 March 2022.
"The CNOSF then sent us a response from the IOC that was quite surprising," Raphan told investigators compiling the Report.
"The IOC explained that imposing parity would be tantamount to legislative interference, which would jeopardise the continued organisation of the Olympic Games."
Equality between men and women governing sport within France was supposed to be achieved ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics in January this year. Progress has been woefully inadequate, the Report outlines.
Of 119 national sporting federations, just 18 are chaired by a woman.
Only 14 of the 49 members of the CNOSF Board are women.
Romain Molina, a journalist from THE INQUISITOR team, has uncovered many scandals in French sport with his tenacious research over many years – for several media outlets in France and abroad.
Romain Molina appeared as an expert witness in the committee of enquiry. There he described, among other things, how his attempts to convince the Ministry of Sport to take action failed. Documents presented by Romain Molina were ignored one after the other.
The investigation report states, for example:
"The analysis made by journalist Romain Molina, who believes that the Inspectorate General's report on the French Football Federation is not a complete analysis of the situation in the French game, is a good one.
'In France, we've always attacked one person in particular, often the presidents of the federations: Mr Laporte in rugby and Mr Le Graët in football. But at no point do we attack the system, as if one person were responsible for all the treacle, all the filth. Either people are being taken for fools or there is a lack of knowledge, but either way, it won't solve the problems. We've saved systems who turned a blind eye to abominable acts, without ever tackling the root of the problem."
Romain Molina recently reported on the dubious practices in the fencing association:
Political hot potato
"It has become political". The words of an insider, who could not talk openly about what has become a hot potato in France. The CNOSF, in particular, lobbied heavily against the report and its recommendations on the basis that it represents interference in the autonomy of sport - an argument with which regular readers of THE INQUISITOR will be familiar.
David Lappartient – president of the CNOSF, IOC member and president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) –wrote a 19 July 2023 letter reported in French media questioning the need for such a report "less than four hundred days before the opening of the Paris Olympic Games." Oudéa-Castéra also labelled a tool used to collect testimonies for the Report as "out of touch".
But the report also highlights inaccuracies presented as truth by Oudéa-Castéra, who was appointed Minister for Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in May 2022 and, while retaining these portfolios, on 11 January 2024 also became Minister for National Education and Youth in the current government.
Minister Oudéa-Castéra told investigators that her €500,000 salary for her former role as general director of the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), which she held from March 2021 to May 2022, was similar to her predecessor. In fact, it was €86,000 more.
She also claimed that the FFT received nothing from public subsidies, and generated all of its income from tournaments. The report outlines that not only is this inaccurate, but wildly so when you consider that she was recruited during Covid-19. During the year of her recruitment, the FFT received €10.4 million in public subsidies from the state, to keep it afloat after the cancellation of major tournaments such as Roland-Garros.
Integrity & Safeguarding
Two issues that commonly trouble sporting bodies are at the centre of the report’s recommendations. In 2018, Oudéa-Castéra headed the association Rénovons le Sport Français (Renew French Sport), which recommended the establishment of an external integrity monitoring body.
When asked about this by investigators at the end of 2023, she said that "things have moved on. We now have the means to ensure that such situations never happen again."
The commissioning of the report was in part inspired by the horrific experiences reported by figure skater Sarah Abitbol in her 2020 book, Such a long silence. The situations referred to by Oudéa-Castéra refer to the sexual assault of Abitbol by her coach.
"I couldn't bear the idea that my attacker was in a skating club. and that he can do again what he did to me."
The report summarises the revelations of Ms Abitbol and the subsequent investigations as follows: "The incovering of a veritable 'rape culture' in skating."