In Brief

British Gymnastics to investigate alleged abuse of elite Olympic athletes

Olympians describe culture of ‘fat-shaming’ and ‘fear’ within sport

The governing body for gymnastics in the UK has announced an independent inquiry into allegations of “serious physical and emotional abuse” made by elite athletes.

One former British Olympic gymnast described being “made to train until her hands ripped and bled”, while another said she was “locked in a cupboard by her coach as a ten-year-old”, The Guardian says.

The accusations also include multiple claims of fat-shaming. Francesca Fox, who competed as a rhythmic gymnast at the 2012 London Games, told ITV that she was constantly told she was “fat” and “looked like a hippo”, and ended up weighing herself ten times a day. 

Another former Olympian, Nicole Pavier, told the BBC that she developed bulimia when she was 14 and retired from gymnastics three years later, after becoming “a shell of a person”.

Several other gymnasts also spoke to the broadcaster about what they called a “culture of fear” within the “mentally and emotionally abusive” sport.

Announcing the independent investigation, British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen said that “it is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns” and that a review was urgently needed to “help us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible”. 

Allen added: “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.”

The review, to be led by Jane Mulcahy QC, comes as increasing numbers of former British gymnasts “speak out after the recent broadcast of the US documentary Athlete A”, says The Guardian.

The film details abuse of American gymnasts and the crimes of the USA team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexual offences against hundreds of underage athletes. 

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