British athlete Jo Pavey has said that her sponsorship deal from a leading global sportswear brand was "paused" when she became pregnant.
Pavey, who won the gold medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2014 European Championships, said that she felt "punished" by Nike for deciding to start a family. She said her sponsorship was halted first when she became pregnant with son Jacob, and then again with daughter Emily.
"When I announced I was pregnant my contract was immediately paused," Devon-born Pavey told Sky News. "One of the main problems is the target to get the contract back and the timescale. It was the joy of running that kept me going because you think 'what will, be will be' and I was focused on being a mum. But you don't want to feel punished for being pregnant."
Three American athletes, Alysia Montano, Phoebe Wright and Kara Goucher, revealed similar experiences with the brand earlier this week. "Getting pregnant is the kiss of death for a female athlete,” Wright, a runner sponsored by Nike for six years, told the New York Times. “There’s no way I’d tell Nike if I were pregnant.”
Pavey is the first British athlete to add her voice to the controversy.
Nike, which celebrated Serena Williams' Grand Slam-winning tennis success after starting a family in its Dream Crazier marketing campaign, has insisted that it recently altered its policy towards female athletes who become pregnant.
"Nike is proud to sponsor thousands of female athletes. As is common practice, our agreements do include contractual performance obligations," the spokesperson said.
"Historically, a few female athletes had reduced payments based on failure to meet their contractual performance obligations. We recognised that there was a need for more consistency in our approach and in 2018 we standardised our approach across all sports so that no female athlete is penalised financially for pregnancy."