Ethics Dunces: Cavan van Ulft And Lindsay Noad, And By The Way, Where Is Child Services?

Rory van

The tale of Rory van Ulft, the seven-year-old competitive weight-lifter, puts me in mind of Samuel Johnson’s famous quip about a dog walking on its hind legs: “It’s not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” According to one gushing profile, “Rory, who is just four feet tall, started training just after her fifth birthday after she was scouted at a gymnastics class. Fast forward to last week and she was crowned USA weightlifting under-11 and under-13s Youth National Champion in the 30kg weight class. She is the youngest US youth national champion in history and is the best pound-for-pound under-11s lifter in the US.”

Here’s another:


I think, like the twin boys of “The Biking Vogels,” Abbie Sunderland, tiny gymnasts and skaters, child actors dragged to auditions and all the other children manipulated, exploited and ultimately endangered or harmed by their parents, Rory needs some responsible adult to step in and rescue her.

She has an Instagram account, managed by her parents [ Cavan and Lindsay] where the videos of her incredible feats are shared. Take a look at one such clip and prepare to get stunned….“I like getting stronger. Being stronger lets me do more and get better at everything I try. I don’t think about what came before, or what will come after. I don’t think about anything. I just clear my mind and do it,” she [said]….“Based on her current Sinclair total, Rory is not only the strongest seven-year-old in the world. She is likely also the strongest seven-year-old girl or boy who has ever lived, for whom there are verifiable competition results,” Rory’s dad told LadBible….

What do you think of this amazing girl?

Glad you asked: I think she’s being abused. A seven-year old doesn’t have the capacity to consent to being subjected to such extreme training, and when, as is overwhelmingly likely, she suffers from serious physical maladies because she was pushed into lifting heavy weights before her bones were ready for it, it will be too late.

I was shocked to find that there were weight-lifting competitions for children this young. But Rory is one of dozens of Canadian preteens in the sport, which has no official lower age limit in either the Canada or the U.S. During the 2018-19 season, Canada had at least 63 Olympic-style weightlifters between the ages of seven and 13 registered for competition, and the U.S had more than 400. The argument given for allowing this is that there is no data showing conclusively that toddlers lifting weighs is harmful. Most doctors, however, reason that it is, and caution against it.

Perusing sites like that of the the Mayo Clinic and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, I see remarkable consistency in the advice about children lifting weights. They advise that…

  • Children under seven should not lift weights at all.
  • Strength training can be good, but powerlifting and training to maximize lifts is dangerous.
  • “Studies have suggested that weight training might harm a child’s growth, lead to injuries or not increase muscle strength.”
  • “In general, children and adolescents should use submaximal loads to develop form and technique in a variety of exercises. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse using continuous maximal lifts for youth strength training. Single maximal lifts are not recommended until skeletal maturity is attained.”

Ethically, however, the main point is: why take the chance? What’s the rush? There are not sufficient numbers of child weightlifters to effectively study the effects of the activity, and children Rory’s age cannot meaningfully consent to the risks. Weight-lifting is approved and with proper technique regarded as safe for boys and girls once they enter puberty, if that’s an activity they want to engage in, rather than a regimen imposed on them by parents seeking vicarious thrills and publicity.


Sources: CBC, Hindustan Times, Ladbible

11 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Cavan van Ulft And Lindsay Noad, And By The Way, Where Is Child Services?

  1. There are no reliable studies because most responsible adults realize it is a terrible idea. Our son swims in a competitive swim league and has since he was about 7 (he is 16 and loves it). He was not allowed near weights until he was 12 years old and at that age could only use reflexive bands for dynamic tension training under his coach’s supervision.

    The problem is parents. They push their kids into these things. Children have no capacity to know what is happening. Children have no agency to say no. The same mentality is behind child beauty pageants.


  2. What’s the rush, you ask? Well, the younger the achievement, the more attention she (and her parents) get After all, aren’t world records worth sacrificing childhood for?

    You are correct, of course. The responsible parent would have told the weight-lifting scouts, “No way, no how is our tiny daughter doing that.” Rory could not possibly fully comprehend the ups and downs of this type of training at her age.

    • The problem is, that can boomerang later, as child star- turned-famous-for-being-famous-has-been Charlotte Church could tell you.

      For about 3 years, she was dominating the scene like a soprano supernova. Then she started to believe her own press releases, talked like an idiot following 9/11, derailed her career, and became nothing other than a target for a tabloid reader populace that love nothing better than a good girl gone bad and probably a functioning alcoholic. In the process she shined a light on her messed up parents, especially her self-harming slut turned pushy stage mom Maria.

      She hasn’t released an album in over a decade, or toured, or accomplished a damn thing, and there are a lot of people who will never forgive her for dragging their names down with hers.

  3. “I like getting stronger. Being stronger lets me do more and get better at everything I try. I don’t think about what came before, or what will come after. I don’t think about anything. I just clear my mind and do it,” she [said]….

    Sure she said this. Sounds just like something your typical seven year-old would say. Sure. Not anything some crazed parent would say she said. Nope.

  4. I remember when the Jr. High Football coaches came by to ‘scout’ the 6th graders. They picked the biggest ones and invited them to start lifting weights with the Jr. High kids. They got big and strong fast. It turns out, steroids will do that. When you get into competition, the temptation to get any competitive advantage is too grea for most people. Some of my classmates ended up blowing out their knees in 7th grade because they got too big, too fast. That was before ACL replacement surgery.

  5. Sadly, the only dunces I see are the ones who wrote this ridiculous blog and those in the comments section attacking this exceptional young girls’ parents, who in fact deserve parents of the year awards for introducing their little girl to resistance training early in life.

    Before any of you mental midgets clap back at me, be sure to read the following:

    • I’ll let this obnoxious first comment through moderation as an example of what poor participation here looks like. You never make any substantive argument rebutting anything in the post: you begin with insults, and go on to posting links from other sites. That’s called an “appeal to authority” and isn’t an argument at all. I would expect a genuine rebuttal to address the core ethical question raised, which is, as with all small child participation in extreme sports, consent, and an answer to the other point raised in the post, “What’s the rush?”

      You didn’t attempt to provide a counter argument, because you can’t If I, as a responsible parent, am aware of two schools of thought on whether my 8-year old should be deadlifting 200 pounds (which is what this little girl did last month), I’m going with the more cautious one, because if the other is wrong, she hits her teens with chronic physical problems. There is no reason to take the risk, exactly as in the case of the other prodigies I mentioned, and you ignored.

      Now you have three counter-arguments to rebut, but don’t try with another comment unless it begins with an acceptable apology. The “mental midget” whose house this is does not approve of your manners.

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