AT the age of 16, Lara Gorman became involved in what most right-minded people would consider an inappropriate relationship with her triathlon coach John Dargie, a man in his thirties.

Her story is told in full in the news pages of The Herald today and is important because if we are to continue to make the case for young women to become involved in sport, we must do everything to ensure that they can do so safely.

It is widely acknowledged that keeping teenage girls interested in sport is particularly challenging, but not in Lara’s case. She was sporty and naturally talented, her prowess as a swimmer and cyclist fairly naturally taking her into triathlon. Yet in a matter of months, as explained by her mother Wendy, who was and is still involved in the sport, Lara went from being identified as a potential elite sportswoman, selected for the ‘girls4gold’ programme run by UK Sport, to dropping out of her sport and descending into self-harm as her self-esteem plummeted.

Read more: Former athlete Lara Gorman backs calls for extended trust laws after teenage relationship with coach

She says she had known Dargie since she was 13, but when their sexual relationship began, soon after her 16th birthday, she kept it secret from her parents for two years.

Jane Moncrieff, Triathlon Scotland’s chief executive, explained this week how close the matter had come to being kept from being reported to the sporting authorities.

“We received one complaint from an anonymous person,” she told me.

“It couldn’t remain anonymous ... We made that clear, that the anonymous person had to not be anonymous, we needed to know who they were. They complied with that. That was the only complaint we got and that is the only allegation made that we have had. As a governing body we can’t react to hearsay, we need something concrete to go on which we did have and we dealt with.”

At the very least, others had their suspicions, to the extent that Lara’s mother’s dismay has been exacerbated by her own reaction when a friend had registered concern after seeing the pair out together socially, dismissing it as part of the mentoring process that is a natural part of a coach-athlete relationship.

The problem is that wondering whether something might be amiss is quite a different matter from deciding to make a formal accusation. Fears about the possible repercussions of having misread a situation would cause many to turn a blind eye and hope all was well.

Read more: Former athlete Lara Gorman backs calls for extended trust laws after teenage relationship with coach

Moncrieff told me she was disappointed the family chose to go public with their story, rather than go back to the governing body and say they felt it should be looked at again.

Yet the fact that only one person came forward with concerns and was initially unwilling to do so on the record goes a long way towards explaining why it is so vital that they opted to take the route they have.

Just as we are repeatedly told that one of the main reasons victims do not report incidents is the fear of not being believed, so cultural change is required to create environments in which it is the norm to register concerns with officialdom when we witness behaviour that offers cause for it.

Moncrieff thinks progress has been made in that regard since, in 2011, Triathlon Scotland imposed a two-year suspension on Dargie from being officially listed among their registered coaches.

“There are still lots of gaps and we need to do a lot better, but certainly at Triathlon I think and hope we are doing everything we can in terms of welfare officers in clubs,” said the CEO.

“We don’t affiliate any club – and they get their insurance through us – unless they’ve got a welfare officer, unless the welfare officer’s done their training. We’re completely hard on stuff like that, so we’ve got a welfare policy we’ve just renewed having reviewed our welfare policy again.”

Yet she also confirmed that there has been no change to their rules and regulations in the interim.

“We reviewed our disciplinary policy after that case,” she said.

“We didn’t make any changes because we believed it was robust and the disciplinary policy worked.”

Having identified what it believes is a loophole in the law, the NSPCC is campaigning for sports coaches to be placed in the same category as teachers, medics and social workers by having a duty of care imposed upon them that would criminalise any sexual involvement with youngsters aged between 16 and 18.

The last time that was proposed in Scotland and rejected at Holyrood was while Lara was engaged in the relationship with her coach. An overdue change in the law will obviously come too late for her, but cannot come soon enough for those she is hoping to protect by courageously sharing her story.