Keat­ings: ‘Cul­ture of fear’ claims ig­nored in 2017

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Molly McEl­wee

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.

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