Review uncovers toxic abuse culture in Australian gymnastics

Associated Press
·2-min read
Pictured here, an Australian gymnast performs on the beam in competition.
The new report outlined a toxic culture of abuse within Gymnastics Australia. Pic: AAP

An independent review into gymnastics in Australia has heard evidence of a toxic culture that contributed to physical, emotional and sexual abuse of young athletes.

Gymnastics Australia last August asked the Australian Human Rights Commission to examine the sport’s culture and practices following complaints from at least 20 former gymnasts, including Olympic and Commonwealth Games medalists, about physical and mental abuse during their careers.

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The findings of the report were released Monday, with the Commission determining that the key drivers of the problems were as follows: a ‘win-at-all costs’ approach, the young age of female gymnasts, a culture of control, and a tolerance of negative behaviours.

Kate Jenkins, the Australian HCR's Sex Discrimination Commissioner, said gymnasts shared experiences of abuse, misconduct and bullying.

The review also found “significant cultural challenges ... cutting across coaching practices, the health, safety and well-being of gymnasts, complaints and investigations, and governance.”

Gymnastics Australia described the report as confronting, highlighting issues with “silencing of the athlete voice, an unhealthy focus on the ‘ideal body’, particularly for young female athletes, and an acceptance of archaic and authoritarian coaching practices.”

In a statement, Gymnastics Australia said it would adopt all 12 recommendations contained in the report and “unreservedly apologises to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport.

"We also thank the athletes and other community members who engaged in the review process and acknowledge their bravery in doing so.”

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Latest report follows controversies overseas

About 320,000 people are involved in gymnastics in Australia, with roughly three-quarters of those being female. 

The review received 138 written submissions.

Pictured here, an Australian gymnasts holds on to rings during competition.
The report came after complaints from at least 20 former Australian gymnasts. Pic: AAP

The investigation followed the Dutch gymnastics federation's decision to suspend its women’s training program to investigate allegations of intimidation and abuse.

The British Gymnastics federation also called for an independent review into claims of mistreatment in the sport in Britain.

In the United States, hundreds of women came forward against Larry Nassar, the osteopathic physician sentenced up to 175 years in prison after being found guilty of molesting hundreds of young athletes over a 29-year career as the USA Gymnastics team doctor.

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