New IFSC competition policy to fight against REDs

reds ifsc policy

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) has become the first International Federation to introduce comprehensive regulations related to Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs). With the implementation of a new event policy for athletes ahead of the 2024 season.

Developed by IFSC scientific experts and based on the findings of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s REDs Consensus Group, the policy is designed to enhance the protection of the health and rights of athletes. With the new policy rolled out ahead of the 2024 Climbing and Paraclimbing season, set to kick off in Keqiao, China on 9 April, it will be fully implemented and operational for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and Olympic Qualifier Series.

The policy will see the IFSC working in tandem with National Federations, athletes, and an external commission of independent experts in the field of REDs. As REDs is not currently identifiable using any single test or screening method, the IFSC’s Medical Commission, led by Professor Naama Constantini who is also part of the IOC REDs Expert Consensus Group, concluded that a more comprehensive screening procedure was required to ensure an accurate picture of an athlete’s health.

IFSC REDs policy

As such, the IFSC REDs Policy will require :

  • Athletes to fill out two short questionnaires aimed at accumulating personal parameters for such criteria as height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • National Federations to issue each athlete a health certificate. Or request more testing before providing “clearance” to the IFSC.
  • IFSC to initiate random and focussed testing of the parameters (including BMI, heart rate, and blood pressure) throughout the Climbing season. The IFSC will also store the information provided by the National Federations. 
  • An External Commission to review the data of suspected cases. Comparing collected data with that of the National Federation health certificates.
reds in climbing

“The new system underscores our commitment to the health of our athletes,” said IFSC President Marco Scolaris. “The policy will not only help us determine which athletes are most at risk. It will also help raise awareness of the issue, provide help to those who need it. And ensure the rights of each athlete are protected. 

REDs is a syndrome that affects health

“The National Federations are key to the success of the new policy, as the health and welfare of the athletes fall under their jurisdiction at the national level. We look forward to collaborating with them closely on this matter.”

REDs is a syndrome that affects health and performance. It is caused by a mismatch between the calories eaten and burned during exercise. It can lead to many short- and long-term health and performance issues.

While the true prevalence of REDs varies between different sports, the IOC REDs Consensus Group found that “the syndrome often goes unrecognised by athletes themselves and their coaches, and team clinicians. And may be unintentionally exacerbated by ‘sports culture’ due to the perceived short-term performance gains from limiting calorie intake.”

“There have been calls for Body Mass Index (BMI) to be used as a yardstick for REDs. But on its own, a simple BMI test does not provide an accurate picture of a person’s health. And, importantly, would also not be legally defensible,” said IFSC General Director Piero Rebaudengo.

laura rogora climbing eating disorder

Making the sport safer

“In addition, BMI varies greatly from one country to another. Excluding athletes from competition based only on a BMI reading would therefore be a gross violation of their rights.”

On this basis, the IFSC set about developing a more comprehensive policy for REDs testing. One aimed at protecting the health of the athletes on the one hand. And their human rights on the other.

“Athlete health, wellbeing and safety has and will always remain a priority for the Athletes’ Commission. The policy announced today is the start of the journey towards making our sport safer. By addressing a complex and sensitive topic,” said Great Britain’s Olympian Shauna Coxsey.

“As President of the Athletes’ Commission, I will continue to work with my fellow Commission members. In order to ensure the athlete’s voice is heard. And they are supported as these new policies are implemented. I would like to thank the Medical Commission and Sport Department for the hard work and dedication they have shown in developing this policy. We believe this is a positive step towards protecting athletes.”

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