Helpline for abused gym­nasts re­ceives more than 120 calls

NSPCC re­it­er­ates im­por­tance of ath­letes com­ing for­ward Fra­ga­pane and Simm climb down af­ter sup­port for Red­din

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

A helpline for Bri­tish gym­nasts who have suf­fered abuse in the sport has re­ceived more than 120 welfare calls since launch­ing last month.

The helpline was set up by the Na­tional So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to Chil­dren (NSPCC) and the Bri­tish Ath­lete Com­mis­sion on July 20 in re­sponse to a grow­ing num­ber of gym­nasts go­ing pub­lic with their ex­pe­ri­ences of a “cul­ture of fear” in gym­nas­tics.

The free helpline has been in­un­dated with more than 120 welfare con­tacts. It is con­fi­den­tial and staffed by in­de­pen­dent coun­selThe lors, and the calls have ranged from com­plaints to those voic­ing con­cerns, and an as yet un­con­firmed num­ber have been re­ferred to rel­e­vant ex­ter­nal au­thor­i­ties.

“It is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant that so many gym­nasts, par­ents and peo­ple in­volved in the sport at all lev­els have come for­ward to talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences of abuse and mis­treat­ment in gym­nas­tics,” Louise Ex­ton, NSPCC helpline ser­vice head, said. “We’ve heard claims about gym­nasts be­ing phys­i­cally pun­ished or emo­tion­ally abused by be­ing re­lent­lessly called lazy or in­ad­e­quate, or be­ing forced to re­main at an un­healthy weight.”

Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics de­clined to com­ment on the news, but it is has been an­other week of up­heaval. On Tues­day, a re­view headed by Anne Whyte QC and led by UK Sport and Sport Eng­land into mis­treat­ment within gym­nas­tics opened with calls for ev­i­dence from those in­volved in the sport to help in­form their in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

There also ap­peared to be dis­cord among the Bri­tish elite team yes­ter­day, when Com­mon­wealth medal­lists Clau­dia Fra­ga­pane and Kelly Simm pub­licly apol­o­gised af­ter com­ing un­der fire for seem­ing to voice sup­port for an al­legedly abu­sive na­tional team coach.

Amanda Red­din, who was due to lead Great Bri­tain’s women’s team at the Olympics next year, “tem­po­rar­ily stepped aside” from her role on Tues­day. Red­din cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nies all al­le­ga­tions made against her in re­cent days, some of which stretch back to the 1980s.

“The way ev­ery­thing is con­tin­u­ing to come out in the me­dia at the mo­ment feels so un­fair,” Simm wrote on Tues­day night.

“What up­sets me and makes me an­gry is that the so­cial me­dia/TV por­tray peo­ple in a neg­a­tive way be­fore they have a chance to have their say,” Fra­ga­pane added.

Yes­ter­day Fra­ga­pane and Simm apol­o­gised on so­cial me­dia, and en­cour­aged peo­ple to sub­mit their ex­pe­ri­ences to the Whyte Re­view.

“I’m so sorry my tweet yes­ter­day has been taken the wrong way,” Simm wrote. “I of course sup­port & stand with all the girls… We have all been through so much TO­GETHER & it’s clear some­thing has to change.” Fra­ga­pane added: “Same here, we both didn’t mean for it come across that way.”

Apol­ogy: Clau­dia Fra­ga­pane says sup­port of Amanda Red­din was not crit­i­cism of the re­view

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