Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics chief faces grow­ing pres­sure to re­sign over abuse scan­dal

Al­leged vic­tims claim Allen bears ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity Or­gan­i­sa­tion ac­cused of cover-up over slap­ping claims

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Gymnastics - By Ben Rumsby and Molly McEl­wee

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics is fac­ing calls to re­sign over the abuse scan­dal that has en­gulfed the gov­ern­ing body, amid ac­cu­sa­tions of a “cover-up”.

Al­leged vic­tims and their par­ents said Jane Allen bore ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for the cul­ture in the sport, fol­low­ing the avalanche of al­le­ga­tions that gym­nasts were bul­lied, beaten and starved – with some too scared to speak out for fear of be­ing axed ahead of the Olympics.

The Daily Tele­graph can also re­veal that Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics broke its own rules by not re­port­ing to po­lice or so­cial ser­vices an ac­cu­sa­tion that a 10-year-old girl had been slapped by a coach, and that when a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was opened, the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor was not sus­pended un­til the fol­low­ing year.

All this hap­pened dur­ing Allen’s decade-long ten­ure, and al­leged vic­tims and their par­ents yes­ter­day said she should go. Lisa Ma­son, the 1998 Com­mon­wealth cham­pion and for­mer Olympian who was one of the first women to go pub­lic about the abuse she al­legedly suf­fered, told The Tele­graph that Allen needed to “hand in her res­ig­na­tion”.

She said: “There are too many gym­nasts who are even in squads now that have had sit­u­a­tions with abu­sive coaches, and their coaches are still be­ing em­ployed.”

Another al­leged vic­tim, Lucy Mein, agreed and added: “The state­ments that have been put out have made it sound like these sto­ries are a to­tal shock to her, which shouldn’t be the case with the many re­ports over the years.”

A par­ent of an abuse vic­tim, who did not want to be named, said: “I sim­ply can’t see a way for Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics to move for­ward with Jane Allen at the helm. New lead­er­ship is re­quired to help restore peo­ple’s faith in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

It emerged last night that Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics had not im­me­di­ately re­ported to po­lice or so­cial ser­vices a com­plaint that Cather­ine Lyons, now 19, had been slapped by a coach so hard that it had left a hand­print on her thigh.

The Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics Safe­guard­ing and Pro­tect­ing Chil­dren Pol­icy at that time stated the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s “pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity” was en­sur­ing “con­cerns re­lat­ing to pos­si­ble abuse to­gether with any rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion are passed on to chil­dren’s so­cial care ser­vices and/or the po­lice with­out de­lay”.

Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics also did not tell Lyons’s par­ents of the ac­cu­sa­tions – de­spite the coach be­ing asked to un­der­take safe­guard­ing train­ing – breach­ing its “com­mit­ment to work in part­ner­ship with par­ents where there are con­cerns about their chil­dren”.

Lyons’s fa­ther, Mau­rice, said yes­ter­day: “Was it a cover-up? In­deed, it might have been a cover-up.”

The whistle­blower who made the orig­i­nal com­plaint in 2012 said: “A hun­dred per cent I be­lieve it was a cover-up.” That whis­tle-blower even­tu­ally went to the po­lice in 2016 and a “child cru­elty” in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched, but it “failed to meet the ev­i­den­tial test” so long af­ter the al­leged in­ci­dent took place.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice Ser­vice, which car­ried out the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said: “The MPS en­cour­ages all those who are the vic­tim of crime, or who are aware of oth­ers who are suf­fer­ing the ef­fects of crim­i­nal­ity, to tell po­lice as soon as pos­si­ble. Prompt re­port­ing will help a swift and ef­fi­cient in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan in Oc­to­ber 2016, but Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics did not sus­pend the ac­cused coach un­til the fol­low­ing year, de­spite its com­plaints and dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dures stat­ing: “The CEO may, at any time prior to the de­ter­mi­na­tion of a com­plaint, sus­pend the mem­ber­ship or reg­is­tra­tion of a par­tic­i­pant or any part or parts of the rights or ben­e­fits of a par­tic­i­pant if he rea­son­ably be­lieves that: (1) Chil­dren, young peo­ple or vul­ner­a­ble adults may be at risk; (2) It is nec­es­sary for the pro­tec­tion of other par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing the re­spon­dent; (3) Al­le­ga­tions against the re­spon­dent would, if es­tab­lished and up­held, amount to gross mis­con­duct.”

Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics, which on Tues­day an­nounced an in­de­pen­dent re­view into the scan­dal, de­clined to com­ment on “in­di­vid­ual cases”. It added: “It is clear there is more work to be done to un­der­stand why some gym­nasts feel re­luc­tant to re­port bad be­hav­iours of coaches. We are de­ter­mined to get to the bot­tom of these is­sues and learn lessons that will help the sport.”

Call: Jane Allen must re­sign for Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics to move for­ward, say al­leged vic­tims and par­ents

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