Daily Tribune (Philippines)
British Gymnastics in trouble for abuse
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — 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 United Kingdom.
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 prioritizing “podiums over people.”
There was physical abuse, pushing and slapping.
“It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to,” said 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 25 February.”
“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.”