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 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