Over the years a myth has been perpetuated by officials at all levels of the sport of Olympic Canoeing: that unilateral movement from Olympic style canoeing will damage the female body (sex/reproductive organs, urinary tract, etc.) potentially causing infertility, incontinence, stunt feminine development, and/or cause lopsided development. The WomenCAN International Health and Science Advisory Board has been created to permanently dispel this myth and encourage accountability to prevent its use as a tool to deter women from canoeing.

A recent report from Poland [see more of this story here] reveals that these unsubstantiated claims continue to play a role in the obstruction and suppression of women and girls’ participation in Canoeing. In response to calls for assistance to dispel this myth, the Board is calling for a “cease and desist” on the perpetuation of this misinformation by local, regional, national in international canoeing officials, and for accountability at all levels of Sport. This myth’s perpetuation has been one of the destructive side-effects of the 89-year ban on women in Olympic Canoeing.

WomenCAN International Health and Science Advisory Board Consensus Statement:

“No female athlete should be denied or discouraged from the opportunity to participate in any Olympic sport on the basis that she might sustain an injury to her sexual organs or the pelvic floor. There is no valid scientific or even anecdotal evidence of an increased risk for damage occurring as a direct result from participation in any sport, including Canoeing.”


1. Revision of the International Olympic Committee’s “Consensus Statement on Sexual Harassment & Abuse in Sport” * to include the above statement, and, to include under the definition of sexual/gender harassment statements made about any sport causing damage to a woman’s reproductive/sex organs and/or other body functions. This modification would ensure channels for reporting this type of harassment, enable greater accountability and transparency, and inclusion of this topic in education and training;

2. Endorsement by the ICF of the IOC consensus statement and development of an official anti-harassment/abuse policy with permanent posting on the ICF web site. We recognize revision of the IOC Consensus Statement may take considerable time, however, the ICF can still develop its own general policy.

WomenCAN International looks forward to working together with the IOC on revision of the IOC Consensus Statement and the ICF on establishment of a full anti-harassment/anti-abuse policy, which can help foster an empowering environment for all.


*See also IOC press release on consensus statement

Notes to Editors:

WomenCAN International is a global voice for achieving Olympic status and equality for Women in Olympic Canoeing. It is an international group of women and men dedicated to creating racing and development opportunities at all levels, equal to the men.


USA/Canada: Pamela Boteler

Email: info@womencanintl.com