Australian athletes are facing a toxic atmosphere that has led to the “drama” of the Rio Olympics, according to a statement released by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC has described the Rio Games as the most complex sporting event in history, but the events are dominated by violence and drug use.
“It is time for Australian athletes to step away from the sport they love, and it is time to focus on other sports,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement on Friday.
The statement added: “In light of the unprecedented nature of the events that unfolded in Rio and the IOC’s deep concern for the safety of the athletes, we have agreed to work together to find solutions.”
Bach, who had previously said the Olympics were the “most important sporting event of the 21st century”, said the IPC’s role was to “make sure that we ensure that all athletes are safe”.
The IPC has been criticised for not doing enough to tackle doping, but Bach said the organization had taken action to combat “the toxic atmosphere in the sporting arena”.
He said athletes who had taken part in the Games had “the utmost respect and dignity”.
“I want to stress that I cannot say more than that the athletes have taken responsibility for their actions,” Bach said.
“The athletes have acknowledged the responsibility for these actions, and we will be working together to achieve lasting change in the sports world.”
In response to Bach’s statement, former Olympic gold medallist and Olympic silver medallists Sam Whitelock and Mark McMorris said the events had “created a toxic environment that has left the athletes and their families feeling deeply betrayed and in need of healing”.
“The IOC and the Olympic community have an obligation to step up to the plate to ensure that the safety and welfare of athletes is protected and that the world’s sporting community is free to enjoy the sport it loves,” McMoris said in the statement.
“In a toxic culture like ours, athletes are being asked to make difficult decisions that have serious consequences for their own safety and well-being.
The IOC must make the tough decisions to prevent further tragedies and the IOC must act swiftly to address the toxic atmosphere it created.”