Eating disorders still a "huge problem" in climbing, gold medallist Garnbret says

Paris 2024 Olympics - Adidas Olympics Outfits Launch - Adidas Arena, Paris, France - April 18, 2024 Slovenia's Janja Garnbret during the launch REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

PARIS (Reuters) - Eating disorders remain a "huge" issue in climbing, Olympic gold medallist Janja Garnbret said, even as new regulations meant to stop dangerously underweight athletes competing came into effect earlier this month.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing announced the new rules in February after a group of elite climbers spoke out about their experiences with relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) and demanded action from the governing body.

Climbers benefit from a higher strength-to-weight ratio and many resort to losing weight rather than getting stronger, not realising the damage that could do to their health.

"They came out with a new policy which reads good on the paper, but until I see it in practice, it won't change anything and I won't believe it," Garnbret told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of Adidas' Olympics kit launch in Paris on Thursday.

"It's still a huge problem, I think it is going in the right direction but nothing is changing for now, and I hope soon something will start to change."

Under the regulations, in force since April 9, climbers provide details of their height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure, and national federations either issue a health certificate based on those parameters, or request more testing.

The IFSC also conducts random testing throughout the climbing season.

Widely considered the world's most successful competitive climber, Garnbret sounded a confident note about her preparations for this summer's Olympic Games in Paris, having last year missed several competitions after fracturing her toe.

"This year I'm injury-free, just working on my weaknesses and things I want to improve, I just did my first two World Cups and I'm really happy with my shape and with my mentality," she said.

The 25-year-old Slovenian said she would like to compete on men's routes, and that how well she could do would depend on the route setting.

"I always had the belief that women can do everything that men can do, we can be just as strong as men, so I've been always training hard to catch them," she said.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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