#MeToo moment in Polish sports

The former coach of the national cycling team was arrested on charges of multiple rape, threats and sexual harassment, also on minors.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
#MeToo moment in Polish sports - NewsMavens
Cyclist, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

When the case first came to public light in November last year, it caused an earthquake in the national cycling association (PZKol). Heads rolled, key sponsors withdrew funding and the Ministry of Sports and Tourism called on the board of the association to immediately step down.

The director of the board, Dariusz Banaszek, initially refused, arguing that he was hesitant about disclosing the situation earlier only because he didn’t want to create an unnecessary scandal around the team. The man accused of sexual violence was no longer in office -- he argued -- so why should the entire team suffer the consequences of his deeds?

This rings a familiar bell, doesn't it?

Many times in the #MeToo debate, we've heard that because a woman spoke up, successful men lost their jobs and their workplaces were affected.

So why not resolve the issue quietly, elegantly and behind closed doors? -- such voices argue. Well, because in the best case scenario, the predator would move to another job with an untainted record and his former colleagues could pretend that nothing ever happened. Usually, however, the man would stay -- seemingly, powerful and indispensable -- and the woman he harassed would have to choose between leaving or pretending that nothing had ever happened.

This hush-hush mentality is precisely what the #MeToo movement stands against.

Details from the story:

  • During the 11 years he spent working with the team, Andrzej P. saw his trainees win a total of 32 medals at the Olympic Games as well as world and Europe championships.
  • Andrzej P. is not only a former coach, but also the former sports executive in the women’s cycling Polish national team.
  • He will spend the next three months under arrest and is facing 2 to 12 years in prison.
  • He’s been accused by several women. Among their accounts is a story about how Andrzej P. intoxicated his victim with medical drugs and then attempted rape.
  • The case surfaced during an external financial audit, which also exposed the misappropriation of funds of over 250,000 euros (1 million zloty) in the national cycling association.
  • This case is a rare example of the Polish #MeToo movement reaching public institutions and involving well-known figures. Unlike in the US, in Poland hardly any celebrity named her harassers publicly. Instead, the movement had the faces of hundreds of thousands of women who shared their stories on social media.
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