Investigation launched into 'appalling' gymnastics scandal

·4-min read
Lisa Mason, pictured here competing at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Lisa Mason competes at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. (Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images)

The governing body of British Gymnastics has launched an independent review into allegations of abuse in the sport.

Catherine Lyons, a 19-year-old former gymnast, told ITV News she was assaulted and bullied by a coach as a young girl.

Lisa Mason, a gold medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, also reported abuse from a coach as a youngster.

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British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen has admitted to feeling “appalled and ashamed” by the escalating allegations.

“The behaviours we have heard about in recent days are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching and have no place in our sport,” Jane Allen said on Tuesday.

“It is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns to British Gymnastics and it is vital that an independent review helps us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible.”

Jane Allen, pictured here speaking to the media at the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.
Jane Allen speaks to the media during the Glasgow 2018 European Championships. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Lawyer Jane Mulcahy will conduct the review of the allegations that were labeled “shocking and upsetting” by the UK Sport government agency.

“There is absolutely no place for any sort of bullying or abuse in sport and anyone responsible for such behaviour must be held accountable, with support offered to those affected,” UK Sport said.

UK Sport, which oversees funding for British Olympic and Paralympic athletes, said it would determine an “appropriate response” after establishing the facts with British Gymnastics.

“It is essential that all athletes feel comfortable to come forward and share concerns they may have in a safe and confidential environment,” UK Sport said.

The British Athletes Commission said it was “deeply troubled” by the abuses and claims of a culture of fear.

“No athlete should be expected to tolerate an abuse of power or poor practice,” the commission said.

“The performance environment should be a place of mutual trust and respect where athletes are supported in achieving their best.

“The BAC is worried to hear of athlete experiences which appear not to reflect these standards and would urge that any allegations are investigated thoroughly.”

British Olympic officials said they were “alarmed” to hear of the allegations.

“No athlete should suffer abuse in pursuit of their sporting ambitions,” the British Olympic Association said.

The allegations came as former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography in Michigan.

Hundreds of athletes have come forward over the last three years saying Nassar abused them under the guise of treatment, including reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman.

Swiss team boss suspended during bullying inquiry

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s gymnastics federation has suspended its head of elite sport during an external inquiry into claims of a bullying culture.

The federation fired two rhythmic gymnastics coaches last month after investigating allegations by former athletes of physical and verbal intimidation.

The decision to suspend elite performance head Felix Stingelin from duty was taken both to protect him during the inquiry and to allow his department to continue work.

“We deeply regret that this temporary measure has become necessary,” Erwin Grossenbacher, the Swiss gymnastics federation president, said in a statement.

The Swiss team led by Stingelin won its first Olympic gymnastics medal in 20 years at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Guilia Steingruber took bronze in women’s vault.

Training for the Swiss rhythmic gymnastics team was shut down two weeks ago after coaches Iliana Dineva and Aneliya Stancheva from Bulgaria were fired.

with AFP

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