The Finnish Student Sports Federation have claimed cases of serious sexual violence have occurred at the European Universities Games ©EUG

The International University Sports Federation (FISU) have condemned "unacceptable behaviour" at the European Universities Games in Coimbra after allegations were made of sexual harassment at the multi-sport event.

The Finnish Student Sports Federation (OLL) said that the country's female athletes had been the target of "constant and serious sexual violence" at the Games, which are currently ongoing in the Portuguese city.

The organisation claim serious cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault and attempted rape have occurred at the Games, which are run by the European University Sports Association (EUSA).

In response, the EUSA said the safety of competitors was of its "highest priority". 

"Male athletes, as well as an older male coach from a single country have been the perpetrators, while the main victims have been Finnish female athletes," OLL alleged.

"Both physical and verbal abuse have taken place, and this ultimately culminated into attempted rape of one Finnish athlete.

"These events have been witnessed by athletes from various countries, some of whom have also been a target of abuse.

"The events started immediately on July 13 when the athletes arrived at their accommodation premises and carried on with almost no interruption until OLL decided to move the Finnish athletes into a hotel to ensure their safety.

"Officials of the Games failed in protecting the Finnish female athletes: neither the on-site security guards from Securitas nor the employees or volunteers of the Games did anything to interfere with the harassment, not even when it escalated into full-blown physical assault.

"The Finnish woman, who was the target of the assault, called for help in English from the guards, to no avail."

The cases are alleged to have taken place at the European Universities Games in Coimbra ©EUG2018
The cases are alleged to have taken place at the European Universities Games in Coimbra ©EUG2018

The OLL have accused the European University Sports Association (EUSA), the organisers of the Games, of failing to act on the issue and not protecting Finnish athletes.

"EUSA and the Games' officials have attempted to completely brush the incident under the carpet," OLL stated.

"OLL has been present in Portugal during the whole situation, defending the Finnish women and demanding sanctions for the perpetrators, which unfortunately have not been given."

The OLL allege EUSA officials and directors have shown "incredibly conservative and stereotypical viewpoints on sexual harassment" regarding the allegations.

They claim officials and directors of EUSA told them the that the issue is a "word against word" situation, which has resulted in the alleged aggressors not receiving penalties and remaining at the Games.

"In addition, the statements given by several witnesses and by athletes that interrupted the attempted rape have not been accepted as evidence," the OLL said.

"The officials handling the situation have demanded OLL to present physical evidence, such as bruises or DNA.

"Moreover, the victims have been strongly blamed, for example for alcohol use or behaviour deemed 'too calm or normal' for a victim of assault.

"OLL has attempted to answer these claims in discussion and emphasised for instance the special characteristics of violence against women, but the message has fallen on deaf ears."

The Games are currently ongoing in Coimbra ©EUG
The Games are currently ongoing in Coimbra ©EUG

The organisation claims officials stated on July 22 that they would announce potential sanctions after the Games, but the OLL expressed that they were "not hopeful" that this will happen.

"Both EUSA and the whole international sports community have to show their values in action, and not just in speeches," said Soile Koski-Aho, OLL President.

"These Games are supposed to be a joyous event for all participants regardless of gender or any other matter.

"If the safety of Finnish athletes cannot be guaranteed, OLL has to consider further action."

Elina Havu, OLL's secretary general, added: "President of EUSA, Adam Roczek, even told us that they cannot believe all possible stories that are told. 

"This kind of statement sounds unbelievable at this day and age, especially since the incidents had several witnesses. 

"Demanding physical evidence in a situation like this is completely ridiculous and out of date. 

"The directors of EUSA truly must check their views especially on victim blaming."

The EUSA have claimed they took immediate action upon receiving information regarding an alleged sexual assault on July 17.

The organisation state local authorities were informed and an investigation is ongoing.

"We take the safety of its competitors very seriously and the well-being of athletes is our highest priority," a EUSA spokesperson told insidethegames.

"That is why we investigated quickly and thoroughly upon receiving information of an alleged sexual harassment on July 17, provided by the event security service. 

"The local authorities were notified and the investigation is now in the hands of local public prosecution. 

"Other immediate actions were taken to reinforce the safety and well-being of the participants at the event. 

"We would ask that athletes and their national governing bodies to report any further details and concerns they have to us and the relevant authorities. 

"They will be addressed with urgency and compassion."

FISU secretary general Eric Saintrond has contacted the EUSA to discuss their handling of the case ©FISU
FISU secretary general Eric Saintrond has contacted the EUSA to discuss their handling of the case ©FISU

FISU secretary general Eric Saintrond said the organisation have contacted the OLL to offer support in resolving the issues raised.

They have also contacted the EUSA, an associate member of FISU, to find out more details on the handling of the case.

"FISU strongly condemns harassment and abuse of any kind in sport, and especially at international university sport competitions," Saintrond told insidethegames.

"FISU has contacted the Finnish Student Sports Association President and secretary general to offer its support in resolving this serious issue.

"FISU also reached out to the Finnish female athletes, where we expressed our strong opposition to the unacceptable behaviour that occurred in Coimbra.

"FISU has also contacted EUSA, in order to understand EUSA's handling of the case.

"Extensive measures to combat harassment and abuse are already in place at FISU's own events, and these will be reviewed further, in light of the recent European Universities Games."