The University of Colorado has implemented new guidelines for body composition testing after an independent review found that the current practices negatively affected a significant number of student-athletes, particularly those on the women’s cross-country and track and field teams. The 82-page report, along with a summary of the results and actions taken by the university, was provided to Runner’s World. The review revealed that the testing and related nutrition advice exacerbated eating disorders and caused harm to the athletes. The investigation did not find any violations of university or NCAA rules, but it highlighted concerns about the culture and environment within the program.
No staff changes have been made, and the head coach Mark Wetmore, associate head coach Heather Burroughs, and registered dietitian Laura Anderson will continue in their roles. The university’s athletic director, Rick George, apologized for falling short of providing a positive student-athlete experience, especially for female athletes in terms of body composition and culture. While the investigation did not aim to prove the alleged incidents, it highlighted the experiences of a limited number of athletes who voiced negative experiences, while many others reported positive experiences.
The investigation was initiated in 2022 after complaints were submitted by Kate Intile, a former athlete, and 13 other athletes. The university conducted an internal review and implemented new policies, including a temporary suspension of body composition analysis and subsequent opt-in testing. In June 2022, the University of Colorado Audit Department conducted a supplemental independent review, interviewing over 50 current and former staff members and athletes. The report concluded that the sum-of-seven body composition testing negatively impacted a significant number of athletes and highlighted concerns about the program’s culture, particularly for women.
The report also revealed that some athletes felt fixated on their body composition scores and experienced shame when not within the identified range. Emails and team communications showed that the coaches emphasized body composition and believed it was relevant to athletes’ performance. Several staff members expressed doubts about the testing method and raised concerns about the impact on athletes’ mental health and bone health.
To address the issues raised, the university will resume body composition testing with enhanced policies and safeguards. Athletes will undergo screenings with medical and mental health professionals, and high-risk individuals will not be allowed to opt-in. Regular check-ins with mental health practitioners and physicians will be conducted, and coaches will not have access to body composition data. The athletic department will also conduct an annual review of the testing program.
The report highlighted the differences in experiences between the men’s and women’s teams, with the women’s team being more negatively impacted. Many athletes described struggling during their time in the program, and concerns were raised about the coaching staff’s interactions and insensitivity to mental health. The athletic department will implement measures to address concerns over culture, including anonymous reporting tools and internal communications expectation guidelines.
While there were no immediate staff changes, the university has taken personnel actions in response to reports of an unhealthy environment and culture. The athletic director emphasized accountability and prioritizing the mental health and well-being of student-athletes. The university considers the inquiry process closed and looks forward to a brighter future for the program with the new policies and safeguards in place.
Source: Runner’s World