Giving tennis more than a shot

An Act Of Courage In An Unfair Situation

 

“I decided to speak because I am simply shocked… sport is growing in Chile, Santiago 2014 [NDLR: the South American Games] is coming and, starting with this great event, many more things. However, in my opinion, the authorities continue privileging the ‘looking good’ rather than really watching over the athletes.”

 

Thus starts a long, detailed, and very difficult press release that Chilean tennis player Andrea Koch Benvenuto published this Monday on her website.

 

Koch, 27, reacted to the fact that the Chilean Centro de Alto Rendimiento (CAR) has had her suspended, thus unable to enter their premises or access their services, whereas Enrique Aguayo, sports psychologist with known antecedents of having had relations with his patients, remains free to come and go, and even see patients, as he pleases, pending investigation of an event that occurred between them last November.

 

From a lifetime ban to a three-month suspension

On 29 November, 2012, Andrea Koch went to Aguayo’s office, after the therapist had failed to return several of her calls, and a muscular discussion ensued. In presence of psychologist Alexi Ponce, and two other functionaries, the situation escalated until the tennis player ended up hitting Aguayo, a gesture for which she had been banned forthwith from the CAR.

 

After an appeal was filed, Koch saw her sanction reduced from a lifetime ban to a three-month suspension, whereas she only received a letter of reprimand from the Chilean Tennis Federation (FTCh) for her actions.

 

Questionable investigation?

The events of the 29 November are still under investigation by the Chilean National Institute of Sport (IND), and if the no 1 female player of the country remains suspended from the CAR, Aguayo, for his part, is free to come and go and work there as though nothing has happened, despite being one of the main people involved in the altercation.

 

This behaviour has had Koch questioning the reasoning of the IND in this instance, and does not have much confidence in the process:

 

“I took my punishment with much humility, and paid for my preparation for the Fed Cup, tests, nutritionist (which is that of the CAR, but to whom I asked to be taken in his private practice). […] Why did I stop receiving those benefits and that [Aguayo], who is under investigation, didn’t? I don’t trust what is under investigation anymore, as they haven’t even called me to testify, and I am the principal person involved. Therefore, I publicly request the name of the prosecutor and the case number.”

 

The tennis player considers being the victim of an injustice, and requests more transparency from the IND with regards to an investigation that has, also, many other layers attached.

 

Tainted by bad professional ethics

For Enrique Aguayo isn’t white as snow and has antecedents of having, in the past, been involved with patients, one of them Andrea Koch, another, Denise van Lamoen, an archer who was also the Chilean flag bearer at the London Olympics.

 

Furthermore, after the altercation with Koch, an ex-tennis player, Melisa Miranda, stepped out to accuse the psychologist of having tried to take liberties with her during the 2007 Pan American games.

 

Apparently, they are not alone and there have been other cases of young women who have been, in the past, harassed by Aguayo. Even though nothing has been proved or put under more serious investigation (yet), it remains preoccupying, and for those reasons, the Chilean Olympic Committee (COCh) stopped working with him after the Pan American games of 2011 (he was in London at van Lamoen’s request), and the FTCh did not ask him to work with the Davis Cup team anymore.

 

Yet, he continues his practice, in all impunity, at the CAR.

 

That is what Andrea Koch is denouncing.

 

A plea for more transparency

After speaking up in a Chilean newspaper to expose the situation on Sunday (including the quote I translated), Andrea Koch deemed it necessary to express her thoughts more clearly in a press release, which she published on her website.

 

As many of you don’t speak Spanish, I took the liberty of translating it:

 

“I decided to speak because I am simply shocked… sport is growing in Chile, Santiago 2014 is coming and, starting with this great event, many more things. However, in my opinion, the authorities continue privileging the ‘looking good’ rather than really watching over the athletes.

 

Therefore, I am questioning myself: how can they pretend to do a radical results change in sport if, for example, in order to protect the the CAR’s image and friends’ positions, they are able to work with a psychologist who had two known relations with patients and one public sexual harassment denunciation in El Mercurio coming from another athlete?

 

The COCh doesn’t work with Enrique Aguayo anymore, the FTCh never called him again for a Davis Cup tie, he is suspended from the Meds’s board of directors (according to what Soledad Bacarreza wrote). Why is it that, at the CAR, where they are supposed to be conducting an investigation, he is still allowed to keep on practising, and that I, the athlete, am suspended? What kind of transparent investigation is that? Look at this and draw your own conclusions:

 

Daniel Castillo [NDLR: the person whose tweets she reproduced] is a lawyer, brother of Mónica Castillo, Human Resources Manager of the CAR for several years. Both are the children of a CAR’s ex-president. Strangely, none of those tweets that he wrote at the end of December, which I captured, can be seen today on Daniel’s account. Had someone forced Daniel to delete them, else his sister could be discharged from her post, for instance?

 

Another point: I never wanted to give the reasons of my discussion with Enrique last November, always arguing that it was a personal matter, because I never thought it would be necessary to expose myself in order for the authorities to be fair when the time came to make decisions.

 

The scandal at the CAR began because I confronted him when I became aware of what I mentioned previously and this is what I told him: “Until when do you harass women, you old bastard! Don’t you realise that you’re a psychologist and that you can do deep damage to someone, who (like me, and for different reasons, one of which my age, when I was 22) ended up obsessed with you?”

 

For those who wonder why I defended him the day after the problem, it’s simple: I didn’t want to tell of delicate personal situations, there has been a lot of speculation and I simply wanted to watch over mine, appeal for the ban, unfair and beyond all logic, of which I was victim, same as today, where the only thing I ask is transparency and equality of conditions. Finding out that he continues practising while I am suspended appears unfair to me, the reasons of my declarations Sunday in La Tercera and today’s release.

 

Andrea Koch Benvenuto”

 

I think that Koch cannot be clearer, and more transparent, than what she said over the last few days, in light of the difficult situation in which she is in.

 

An act of courage

It is not an easy thing for a woman to stand up against a man in a position of authority who did what Aguayo is accused of having done, especially knowing the risks that come with it: the risk of not being believed, the risk of being judged (after all, weren’t they in a relationship that was publicly known some five years ago?) by those not knowing the whys or whethers of said relationship, the risk of losing all credibility, the risk of losing the support of the world for which one has sacrificed everything for…

 

Yet, Andrea Koch is doing it. She decided to step out and tell her story, to try and shed light on a situation that happens to many women everywhere, a situation that is very often brushed under the carpet, hushed, for fear of the what might happen.

 

If only for that reason, her plea deserves to be listened to, and granted. And Andrea Koch deserves respect. She did what many dare not.

 

¡Fuerza, Andrea!

 

Sources for the research:

… and many other articles from the Chilean press. I only cited the main ones.

 

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