Keatings: ‘Culture of fear’ claims ignored in 2017
Dan Keatings, the former Olympian, has accused British Gymnastics of ignoring claims he made in 2017 about the sport’s “culture of fear” and has called for “drastic changes” in the running of the organisation.
After retiring three years ago, the world, European and Commonwealth medallist spoke publicly in November 2017 about the bullying he had experienced which led to bouts of depression.
He said elite-level gymnasts were scared to speak out because of selection worries, and described an environment in which medals trumped athletes’ welfare.
At the time, Jane Allen, British Gymnastics CEO, responded by pointing to “robust” safeguarding measures, and encouraged athletes to come forward with any concerns. But a deluge of physical and emotional abuse accusations made in the past 10 days by gymnasts at all levels has called the organisation’s integrity into question, and Keatings told The Daily Telegraph that it was evidence that British Gymnastics did nothing to act on his claims.
“I made quite a public statement about it then, and to hear these stories still coming out, people saying nothing has really changed, it is disappointing,” Keatings said. “It’s like it’s gone in one ear and out the other, and they’ve forgotten about it. With more people speaking, it’s on a much bigger scale now, they can’t ignore it.”
Calls are mounting for Allen to step down as CEO, a position she has held for more than a decade. Last Friday, she sent a letter to all British Gymnastics member clubs, promising change and saying she was “appalled and ashamed” by the abuse allegations. However, emails revealed this week show Allen to have thanked former Great Britain trampolining coach Craig Lowther for his contributions to the sport when he resigned after bullying allegations were made against him. Lowther denies the allegations.
Although Keatings stopped short of demanding Allen resign, he said there were a number of people in positions of authority that needed to “be held responsible”.
“It’s a collective of people that should be held responsible,” he said. “From me speaking out, there was obviously an issue and it needed things to be put in place so that it didn’t happen again, which obviously hasn’t happened. It’s like it hasn’t been taken seriously.”
A British Gymnastics representative said “athlete welfare plays an essential role” in its priorities.