PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Prince Feisal of Jordan says the fight against harassment and sexual abuse in sports should share equal footing with work to prevent doping.
An IOC member, Feisal leads an effort by the Olympic body to protect athletes, many of whom come from countries that offer few safeguards.
"Yes, it is important," Feisal told a small group of reporters at the Pyeongchang Olympics. "Is it more important than doping? I think it should be equal to doping, but not many people see that right now."
Feisal said the sexual abuse scandal involving former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar illustrates how little protection athletes have.
"The current scandal begs the question: Why aren't we doing more?" he said. "Maybe you need a tragedy like this for people to use it as a wake-up call. Unfortunately, a few months ago nobody even considered that this was going to be such a major issue."
The Jordanian royal said the United States "is a country that should have had everything to prevent this from happening — and yet it happened. Imagine countries and federations who've got nothing."
Feisal said the International Olympic Committee began several years ago supporting federations and national Olympic committees "to make sure they have regulations and procedures in place" to protect athletes.
"In some cultures talking about harassment is taboo," Feisal said. He compared it with talking openly about cancer a few generations ago.
"Nobody wanted to talk about it," he added. "Now it's no longer something people are ashamed of."
The IOC has a so-called "safeguarding officer" in Pyeongchang to monitor any abuse, the follow-up to a similar, but quickly prepared program at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"Games time only occurs for 16 days, and that's not sufficient to really safeguard the athletes," Feisal said. "We're trying to address safe sports all year round in all societies."
Feisal explained that many Western countries have protection in place. Other countries have little in the way of protections. It's the same with international sports federations that govern dozen of sports in and out of the Olympics.
"Some of them have very good rules and regulations," Feisal said. "Others when we talk to them they say: 'We don't know what we have. Nobody ever asked us to look at it.'"