Former gymnast Nicole Pavier said British athletes were subjected to “child abuse” and that the findings of an independent review showed physical and mental mistreatment at clubs was more widespread than first thought.
The review, led by Anne Whyte QC, was commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England in August 2020 following allegations of mistreatment within the sport in Britain.
The report found that British gymnastics suffered from a cultural problem where young athletes were shamed for their weight while others were handed harsh punishments for the slightest mistakes in training.
British Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the UK, said that it is committed to changing the sport for the better and apologised to the athletes who came forward.
“This isn’t tough coaching and slight mistreatment, this is child abuse of athletes at a very young age,” Pavier told the BBC. “That has a monumental impact on the rest of our lives from a physical and mental perspective.
“This (report) is showing that it’s not just a few bad apples, which we had been led to believe, and actually by using our voices we now know that there is a culture of abuse and these are children being abused in clubs and there are a large amount of them.”
Gymnasts for Change, a group that campaigns for an “abuse-free future”, said the recommendations of the report “fall far short of what is needed”.
“We call on British Gymnastics to implement a new maximum limit on training hours for child athletes,” it said in a statement.
British athletes have won 15 medals in gymnastics since the 2008 Beijing Games, having previously made the Olympic podium only three times.
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