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Whistleblowers call for further action into report over abuse in British Gymnastics

The gymnasts whose whistleblowing led to the landmark Whyte Review have warned that their sport cannot move forward until all abusive coaches are rooted out.

Anne Whyte QC’s damning 306-page report was released on Thursday, laying bare a systemic culture of physical and emotional abuse in British Gymnastics.

However, while more than 100 coaches were implicated in the independent investigation, none were named and many are still working in the system.

‘There are still people in the sport who have been abusive and who have these misguided ideals and problematic behaviours. It is a huge problem,’ said Jennifer McIlveen (née Pinches), who competed at London 2012.

Former England gymnast Nicole Pavier, who was one of the first athletes to go public with allegations of abuse in 2020, told Sportsmail: ‘I’m disappointed they haven’t named any coaches.

‘There are plenty using abusive practices that believe they haven’t done anything wrong. Until they are held to account or admit they are wrong and are remorseful, they will find it hard to make any positive changes.

Whistleblowers Jennifer McIlveen (pictured) and Nicole Pavier have called for further action following the damning report over systematic abuse in British Gymnastics

‘The report is a big step in showing the systemic culture. But I don’t believe they are going to do what is needed to get rid of the coaches.’

As well as coaches in clubs, many senior figures in British Gymnastics remain in place despite overseeing one of the biggest scandals in British sport. Colin Still, who Rio 2016 medallist Amy Tinkler accused of calling her a ‘fat dwarf’ on email, remains a prominent coach.

Of those who have left, Jane Allen, who was chief executive from 2010 to 2020 — the time the Whyte Review focuses on — was allowed to retire with a severance package. Former national head coach Amanda Reddin, meanwhile, ‘mutually agreed’ to leave her role last week, having been cleared of some of the allegations of mistreatment against her.

‘How is it fair gymnasts have been left suicidal while the administrators of the sport walk away with a lot of money?’ said former elite gymnast Claire Heafford, who founded campaign group Gymnasts for Change with McIlveen.

Pavier (pictured) is disappointed the report didn't name any coaches involved in the scandal

Pavier (pictured) is disappointed the report didn’t name any coaches involved in the scandal

‘There are all sorts of people who it is astonishing they have not been sacked or removed. If they don’t go in the next couple of weeks, we will be campaigning for particular individuals to go.

‘No 1 on my list would be (integrity director) Richard Evans. The report was utterly damning of his department. I hope he is gone by next week.’

McIlveen said: ‘The same leadership that reigned over an abusive culture cannot take the sport forward.’

Powell was appointed at British Gymnastics last June, replacing Jane Allen (pic), who resigned in 2020 with a severance package despite being CEO for 10 years – the time of the scandal

Powell was appointed at British Gymnastics last June, replacing Jane Allen (pic), who resigned in 2020 with a severance package despite being CEO for 10 years – the time of the scandal 

Pavier added: ‘There is no accountability, no punishment.’

When new British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell was pressed on what was being done to punish coaches following the publication of the Whyte Review, she could only refer to the governing body’s complaints process. That is despite the Whyte Review finding that British Gymnastics had ‘no overall record of complaints received between 2008 to 2016’.

‘I found out this week they didn’t have a record of the complaint I made about two of my coaches,’ said Heafford. ‘The lack of any adequate system for complaints beggars belief. Is it a cover-up or incompetence? It is most likely both.’

A shocking culture of physical and emotional abuse within gymnastics has been laid bare in the most damning report to ever be published about a British Olympic sport

A shocking culture of physical and emotional abuse within gymnastics has been laid bare in the most damning report to ever be published about a British Olympic sport 

Pavier said: ‘The complaints process isn’t good enough. The coach I complained about was back coaching at the British Championships this year.

‘I have nightmares from things that happened to me. I still have weird smell responses to the perfume my coaches wore. It makes me physically sick. I still have PTSD.’

The Whyte Review listed 17 recommendations for British Gymnastics to implement, split into four topics: safeguarding and welfare, complaints handling, standards and education, and governance and oversight.

The Whyte Review has exposed incidents of children as young as seven being sat on, spat at and slapped by coaches, gaslighted, fat shamed and refused access to food and the toilet

The Whyte Review has exposed incidents of children as young as seven being sat on, spat at and slapped by coaches, gaslighted, fat shamed and refused access to food and the toilet 

Gymnasts for Change also want the Government to introduce mandatory reporting, where people are legally required to report child abuse if they witness it, as well as an independent ombudsman for sport.

‘Because there is no legal framework, there are so many loopholes for coaches,’ added Heafford. ‘UK Sport and British Gymnastics don’t know how to get rid of them. We would call on them to get behind all of the legal changes we are campaigning for.’

Separately, Gymnasts for Change have been co-ordinating legal action against British Gymnastics, with 38 former elite gymnasts making claims. 

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