Australian gymnastics report reveals sexual, physical and emotional abuse


MELBOURNE, Australia – An independent study of gymnastics in Australia has received evidence of a toxic culture that has contributed to the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of young athletes.

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

The report’s findings were released on Monday, as the commission determined that the main drivers of the problems were: a “win-at-any-cost” approach, the young age of female gymnasts, a culture of control and tolerance of the negative. behaviours.

Kate Jenkins, Australia’s HRC Gender Discrimination Commissioner, said the gymnasts shared their experiences of abuse, misconduct and bullying and that the review revealed “significant cultural challenges … affecting the training practices, gymnast health, safety and welfare, complaints and investigations, and governance. ”

Gymnastics Australia described the report as confronting, highlighting issues related to the ‘silence of the athlete’s voice, an unhealthy focus on the’ ideal body ‘, especially for young female athletes, and an acceptance of archaic and authoritarian training practices ”.

In a statement, Gymnastics Australia said it would adopt the 12 recommendations for improvement contained in the report and “wholeheartedly apologize to all athletes and family members who suffered some form of abuse while participating in the sport”.

“We also thank the athletes and other members of the community who engaged in the review process and recognize their courage in this regard.”

More than 320,000 people participate in gymnastics in Australia, of which about three quarters are women. The report included 47 interviews with 57 participants and 138 written submissions from current and former athletes and their families, staff, official coaches and administrators.

It has not investigated specific incidents or allegations of child abuse and neglect, misconduct, bullying, mistreatment, sexual harassment or assault.

The call for investigation followed the Dutch Gymnastics Federation’s decision to suspend its women’s training program to investigate allegations of bullying and abuse, as well as other examinations in Britain , Japan and New Zealand.

In the United States, hundreds of women have come forward against Larry Nassar, the osteopathic physician who, during his 29 years as a physician for the American women’s gymnastics team, used medical treatment as a pretext for assaulting hundreds of young athletes. He was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison in 2018.

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