New Straits Times

British Gymnastics face legal action over alleged ‘abuse’


A group of 17 former gymnasts including three Olympians are to launch legal action against British Gymnastics for alleged “systemic physical and psychologi­cal abuse” by coaches targeting children as young as six.

The female athletes, now aged between 15 and 43, have served a letter before action on the sport’s governing body in the UK.

The letter says the gymnasts were aged between six and 23 at the time of the alleged abuses, which included “widespread inappropri­ate use of physical force” by coaches and enforcemen­t of “baseless” weight-management techniques.

An independen­t review to look into complaints of mistreatme­nt within the sport is currently under way.

Jennifer Pinches, who retired from internatio­nal competitio­n after helping Team GB reach the final at the 2012 London

Olympics, said British Gymnastics had spent too long prioritisi­ng “podiums over people.”

“It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to,” added Pinches, who is now the community director of the Gymnasts for Change group.

“This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.”

Gymnasts for Change campaign director Claire Heafford said: “This is not and has never been about a few bad apples, this is about decades of systemic abuse, encouraged and covered up by those at the top.”

Heafford spoke about her life as a young gymnast between the ages of 10 and 15.

“There was physical abuse, pushing and slapping,” she said.

“Despite training six hours a day we were told every day that we hadn’t done well enough, we weren’t trying hard enough, they were ashamed of us.

“These belittling, humiliatin­g things were shouted at us on a daily basis.”

British Gymnastics said in a statement: “We took receipt of the letter on the afternoon of Feb 25.

“It would not be appropriat­e or fair to all parties for us to make any comment until we have had the opportunit­y for it to be fully considered.”

Jurgen Klopp fears Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson may not play again this season after undergoing groin surgery as he grapples with a deepening injury crisis at Anfield.

The midfielder was forced off half an hour into a 2-0 home defeat to Everton last weekend and further investigat­ion revealed the need for an operation.

Liverpool’s Premier League title defence has been badly undermined by season-ending injuries for centre-backs Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

Henderson has been forced to deputise in defence for long stretches of the season and his absence is another major blow to the Reds’ hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season.

After a run of four consecutiv­e league defeats, Klopp’s men are sixth in the table, five points adrift of the top four.

“It’s not a quick one,” said Klopp on the timescale for Henderson’s return.

“But we all hope there is a possibilit­y for him to play a few games this season.”

In a statement earlier Friday, Liverpool said Henderson will be out until after the March internatio­nal break at the earliest.

The England internatio­nal will definitely miss today’s trip to Sheffield United as well as games against Chelsea, Fulham and Wolves in the Premier League plus the second leg of Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 tie with RB Leipzig.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker could also be missing for the trip to Bramall Lane after his father died in a swimming accident this week in Brazil.

In more positive news for Klopp, forward Diogo Jota is on

the verge of returning after more than three months out with a knee problem.

“Diogo trained now twice with the team,” said Klopp on the possibilit­y of the Portuguese returning on Sunday.

“He looks very good, in training it looks really promising, but he was a long time out.”

Missing out on Champions League football next season would be a devastatin­g blow to Liverpool’s finances and affect

the opportunit­y for a rebuild in the summer transfer market.

And Klopp acknowledg­ed his side have to find a return to winning ways against bottom-of-thetable Sheffield to bolster their hopes of a top-four finish.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “You only have to look at the points, it’s not too far off, but it is a distance. We just have to try to win as many games as possible but of course it is a challenge.”

 ?? EPA PIC ?? Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (left) receives medical assistance after picking up an injury during their Premier League match against Everton on Feb 20.
EPA PIC Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (left) receives medical assistance after picking up an injury during their Premier League match against Everton on Feb 20.

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