Australia’s former track world champion Jana Pittman has said she was kissed by a coach during her athletics career, a revelation that echoes the scandal engulfing Spanish football.
Prosecutors in Spain are investigating Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales after he kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the medal ceremony of the Women’s World Cup final.
Rubiales’s kiss has sparked a massive backlash, but he has so far refused to resign, despite being asked to by the Spanish football federation.
Pittman, the 2003 and 2007 women’s world 400 metres hurdles champion, said Rubiales’s kiss triggered memories from her time in elite athletics and showed how times have changed.
“I have been kissed inappropriately by a coach, not mine, an international coach where it was a cultural norm in that setting,” Pittman, now 40, told a talk show for Australian broadcaster ABC.
“And I didn’t really think anything of it until I witnessed this on television.”
At present 81 Spanish players, including Hermoso, are on strike until the leadership changes at Spain’s football federation.
Hermoso has said the incident left her feeling “vulnerable and like the victim of an assault”.
Spanish football great Andres Iniesta has said the World Cup triumph of the women’s team has been “tarnished” by Rubiales’s behaviour.
Pittman did not name the coach who kissed her while she was an athlete.
“I didn’t even reflect on it in that moment, I knew him quite well, he was a very friendly coach, so I didn’t take it personally,” she said.
“In that context, it wasn’t meant in a way that was discriminatory against me.”
However, the Australian said she now looks differently on the incident in the wake of the Women’s World Cup final.
Pittman, who is now a doctor, said it was important to speak up to ensure professional sport is a safe place for women.
“If we don’t stand up for it in a public setting, it’s really a misdemeanour for women globally,” she added.
Pittman said the “hardest and saddest thing” about the Rubiales scandal is that it casts a shadow over “what this incredible World Cup means for women in sport”.
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