Western Australia’s coroner has recommended the state’s Combat Sports Commission be given more powers to regulate training after the death of an 18-year-old woman as she prepared for a Muay Thai fight.
- Jessica Lindsay died after undergoing an extreme ‘weight cutting’ program
- Coroner Sarah Linton said cultural change was required within the sport
- Ms Linton has recommended greater powers for the governing body
The inquest was told she had undertaken an extreme “weight cutting” program before she was due to weigh in for an amateur fight.
Coroner Sarah Linton said that included not drinking any water on the day, sitting in a sauna and hot car and running in a “sweat suit”, even though the temperature outside was about 30 degrees Celsius.
She said Ms Lindsay’s death was “tragic” and highlighted the need for cultural change in the sport.
“It is clear that Jess believed she was in control of the situation and did not appreciate she was in mortal danger, right up until the moment she collapsed and died,” Ms Linton said.
“She adhered to the general belief in the sport that it is disrespectful to an opponent to fail to make weight.
Ms Linton said the focus should be on “creating a culture that encourages fighters to safely manage their training and weight loss”.
‘No longer acceptable to turn a blind eye’
While the Commission implemented some changes after Ms Lindsay’s death, Ms Linton said she hoped the inquest provided an opportunity for the sport to reflect on “the need for change”.
She said the dangers of weight cutting were well-known “but generally disregarded in the sport as the practice is so common”.
“It is no longer acceptable for people to turn a blind eye to these practices,” she said.
Among her recommendations were for the Commission to take a greater role in regulating training outside of competition, and for competitors to provide their weight at least seven days before any contest, before they are allowed to compete.
She said these changes were necessary until the sport’s culture was changed.
“The bringing about of cultural change requires a concerted effort by all those involved, from a grassroots participant level all the way up to the governing bodies,” she said.
“However, until cultural change is effected, there needs to be an effort made to detect people who engage in dangerous practices at an early stage.”
Commission in process of change
Ms Linton said the Commission’s role prior to Ms Lindsay’s death was “focused on ensuring the contestant came under the set weight for the fight”, without any attention on how they made that weight.
She acknowledged the Commission was in the process of implementing a strategy to discourage the practice of weight cutting by dehydration within the sport, but said legislative change was also needed.
The changes currently being introduced include allowing each participant only one chance to weigh in — to “avoid encouraging contestants to lose more weight in a short period” — and prohibiting the use of sweat suits, saunas and other devices that can dehydrate contestants.
But during the inquest, the Commission’s chair Bob Kucera admitted the governing body could not enforce the policy as it did not have any inspectors.
Ms Linton recommended Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray consider amending the law to extend the Commission’s powers to regulating the training of combat sport contestants.
She also urged the State Government to provide funding for the additional resources needed to carry out those powers.