British Gymnastics Taking Steps to Protect Children from Abuse

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British Gymnastics says it will “break the cycle”

Following the Whyte Review earlier this year, British Gymnastics has said that by the end of 2022, it plans to broaden the roles that require membership to include choreographers, physiotherapists and masseurs and will name individuals serving bans from the organisation on its website.

British Gymnastics says it will “break the cycle of poor past practice” highlighted by the Whyte Review, including incidents of athletes being made to train on broken bones and being punished for needing the toilet and sat on by coaches.

“Tyranny of the scales”

Gymnasts were subjected to excessive weight management – which left some with eating disorders described as the “tyranny of the scales” by Anne Whyte KC.

Amongst other items of reform, British Gymnastics plans to put into action the following:

  • Zero tolerance of any abuse – working with clubs, coaches, gymnasts, and parents to ensure an “open, transparent, caring, empowered and safe environment”
  • “Move away from prioritising medals” to focus on a positive culture
  • List of banned coaches will be published on the British Gymnastics website
  • Former Olympic rower and Foreign Office diplomat Dr Catherine Bishop, a leadership consultant, to become an expert independent advisor.

Claire Heafford, founder of campaign group Gymnasts For Change, welcomed the naming of banned coaches and Dr Bishop’s appointment but said she would like to see greater oversight and the appointment of an independent ombudsman.

This is going to be the first step of a long journey that British Gymnastics will have to embark on to make sure that children will have a safe and enjoyable experience of the sport. Sport is key to a child’s development and ability to flourish; its clubs should be places of safety, sanctuary and above all, enjoyment.

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Helen Horne

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