Women were the target of 87 per cent of the social media abuse that a sample of athletes faced during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, according to a World Athletics study published on Thursday.
The research, carried out in collaboration with data science company Signify Group, found that the abuse included sexist, racist, transphobic and homophobic content, as well as unfounded doping accusations.
The study included a sample of 161 Twitter handles of current and former athletes (81 women, 80 men) involved in the Tokyo Games, from a list of 200 athletes selected by World Athletics.
Of the 23 athletes who received abuse in the posts identified by the study, 16 were women while 63per cent of the total abuse was directed at two Black female athletes.
The study identified 132 discriminatory posts, while 10 per cent of abuse consisted of transphobic (9per cent) and homophobic (1 per cent) material.
"When we published our Safeguarding Policy earlier this month, I said athletics clubs, schools and community sports environments should be safe and happy places for those in our sport," said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.
"This research is disturbing in so many ways but what strikes me the most is that the abuse is targeted at individuals who are celebrating and sharing their performances and talent as a way to inspire and motivate people."
World Athletics added that it would be conducting further research in this area to introduce an online abuse framework for its own social media channels in order to create a safer environment for athletes.