Britain’s best female snowboarding hope of a Paralympic medal has been forced to pull out of the Winter Games due to ‘abuse and unfair’ treatment at the hands of TeamGB officials, a doctor’s report has concluded.
Inspirational athlete Cassie Cava claims the bullying was so bad she had to withdraw from the PyeongChang Paralympic Games in South Korea, at which she was expected to make the podium.
Cassie, 26, claimed a senior official at ParaSnowSport’s lack of support for mental health problems made her feel ‘worthless’ and suicidal.
Cassie Cava was tipped to win a medal for snowboarding at the Winter Olympics in March but she withdrew from the selection process due to a lack of support
On the snow, Cassie finished second at the first World Cup event of the season – the best result of any British boarder all year.
The snow-boarder claimed the official discriminated against her and treated her unfairly when she asked for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to her training programme to help her cope with post-traumatic stress disorder linked to a gang-rape attack and the amputation of her right leg.
In a report submitted to the British Para SnowSport, Dr Edel McAndrew, a consultant clinical psychologist, wrote: ‘Cassie is concerned that the BPA [British Paralympic Association] seem determined to support the [official] at all costs despite the serious bullying allegations made against him and that she has been left to fend for herself and produce a detailed care plan form her own pool of resources when he is the source of the stress.’
Dr McAndrew added: ‘In the short time I have been involved in this case I have been impressed by Cassie’s determination to succeed at being selected for the Winter Paralympics.
‘Even with daily therapy being made available to Cassie, it is simply not possible to support her through what is now becoming, in my view, an abusive and unfair process that seems to be setting her up to fail.
A medical report found that Cassie was suffering PTSD following the rape in 2013
‘The stressors applied to Cassie by the BPA decision process have being psychologically and emotionally damaging and I have not witnessed so far a genuine desire to support her.’
Cassie, who was born with two club feet, was walking home late at night while in Europe when she was attacked and gang-raped in 2013. She decided not to report the incident.
A year later she elected to have her right leg amputated below the knee after she broke her foot and it would not heal despite several operations.
However, Cassie, from Bromley, south London, flourished as an athlete, swiftly joining the Paralympic Snowboarding and triathlon teams, providing an inspiration to millions of young people.
But when her mental health began to suffer in the male-dominated environment of mountain ski training camps her cries for help were met with derision, she claims.
Cassie told MailOnline: ‘When I told them [senior ParaSnowSport] I had been raped, one member of staff jokingly asked me; “Do you want to hang yourself?”’
The paralymipian never fully reported the traumatic incident – she returned home and embarked on her medical degree at King’s College London
‘I asked for reasonable adjustments in order to help me feel safe. I asked to be accompanied on to the slope by a female member of the squad.
‘But I was told that the only female staff member had to be with the skiers. The skiers were given priority over me.’
She told MailOnline: ‘There was a real laddie culture in the snow camp. There were rape jokes, for example. There was zero provision for my welfare.’
Cassie was admitted to a mental health hospital in February 2017 where she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder relating to the gang rape and the loss of her leg.
While in hospital Cassie was stripped of her £5,000 UK Sport funding for ‘behavioural issues’.
Following her ordeal, Cassie wanted to train and board with female athletes, a request which was denied by officials from Para SnowSports who are responsible for the Olympic athletes
But she proved her right to be on the team by finishing second as an independent athlete at the first World Cup event of the season in New Zealand in September – the best result of the season.
Cassie’s funding was reinstated on appeal.
Cassie told MailOnline: ‘When I came out of hospital I was ready to get back into sport and push myself.
‘In hospital I’d had a lot of intensive treatment to treat trauma and I felt that I should have been in a strong place to carry on my life.
‘I was met with such horrible treatment. It was worse than being in hospital, it was worse than being raped.
‘At a time when I was very vulnerable I needed and expected a bit of support and understanding, but I got the opposite.’
UK Sport have launched an investigation into Cassie’s allegations of bullying but she says she cannot compete for TeamGB when the official is in post.
A UK Sport spokesman said: ‘Athlete welfare is of the utmost importance to all of us.
British Parasnowsport and UK Sport have jointly commissioned Sport Resolutions UK to produce an independent investigation and finding of fact into the allegations raised by Cassie Cava, and therefore we are unable to comment further at this stage.’
A spokeswoman for the British Paralympic Association added: ‘British Parasnowsport, UK Sport, the British Athletes’ Commission and the British Paralympic Association were working together to support Cassie’s ambition to compete at the Paralympic Games.
‘Cassie was involved in developing a plan to support her through the selection process and to compete in PyeongChang.
‘This pathway remained open to her at every stage, and her Athlete Personal Award payments will continue to be made until the end of April, however Cassie herself chose to remove herself from British ParaSnowSport’s programme earlier this year.’