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Swimming organization to ban weighing of children following ‘psychological distress’

England’s swimming authority will stop the weighing of children at its clubs following athlete criticism of “unacceptable behaviour.”

New guidance released by Swim England, the country’s national governing body for swimming, stated that “athletes under the age of 18 should not be weighed, unless they are on a nationally supported talent pathway,” the body said in a press release Wednesday.

All clubs and coaches must comply with the policy which covers “all aquatic disciplines,” Swim England noted, adding that it aims to tackle the “psychological distress which may come from weighing athletes such as disordered eating, anxiety and depression.”

The governing body’s new policy follows guidance issued in 2021 recommending children should not be weighed.

British Olympic bronze medalist Cassie Patten, who was recently appointed to Swim England’s new Oversight Committee as an athlete representative, welcomed the change in policy, saying in a statement: “There have been too many instances in the past of unacceptable behaviour around weighing athletes and this policy sets out the parameters to prevent that inappropriate conduct happening in the future.”

“Performance is a key part of an athlete’s development but we also need to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing.”

She added that the policy would help to reduce athletes from developing an eating disorder or suffering from other mental health issues.

Patten previously revealed that she suffered “disordered eating” after becoming “fixated” with losing weight on her coach’s instructions, telling the BBC that a “massive disproportionate amount of focus” had been put on how she looked after competing in the Olympics.

“I was broken, mentally a shell of who I was and a very unhappy person. I hated swimming, I couldn’t put on a swimming costume for years,” she said.

“I’ve spent years getting over it and working on my relationship with food.”

Patten is just one of many athletes to have spoken out about developing an eating disorder after time in the sport.

Swim England added that the weighing of eligible athletes such as those over 18 or on the “talent pathway” should “only be undertaken with clearly documented reasoning, specific to that athlete, and with the athlete’s optimal long-term development in mind.”

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