A gymnast's hands on the horizontal bars
The Whyte Review covered a 12-year period up to August 2020

There is a description of injury and abuse in this article.

There were issues of physical and emotional abuse in British gymnastics.

The gymnast's wellbeing and welfare has not been at the center of British Gymnastics' culture according to the review.

The way in which people behaved and were allowed to behave was the product of the way in which British Gymnastics practices and procedures are now.

Gymnastics in Britain has been the subject of allegations of abuse and mistreatment.

Gymnastics' continued funding will depend on its new leadership teams making significant changes to the sport, according to the report.

British Gymnastics apologized and said it would not shy away from doing what is necessary.

An obvious step in the right direction is the creation of a sports ombudsman.

The British Gymnastics board must publish details of its progress in complying with her recommendations at six, 12 and 24 months intervals, with the expectation that most if not all of them are implemented within two years.

"I hope that the findings in this report will allow the gymnast community to feel that the failures of the past have been publicly recognised and enable the sport to move forward and make positive changes."

The sport of gymnastics is undergoing change for the better, she said.

What did the review find?

More than 400 submissions, including 133 from current and former gymnasts, were received in the review of the period from August 2008 to August 2020.

There were over 400 submissions.

  • More than 40% described physically abusive behaviour towards gymnasts by coaches, including physical chastisement, inappropriate training on injury, overstretching to the point of distress and withholding food, water and access to the toilet.
  • More than 50% reported an element of emotional abuse by coaches, such as swearing, name calling, use of belittling language and gaslighting.
  • Some 30 submissions included allegations of sexual abuse.
  • More than 25% included reference to excessive weight management.

The majority of reports about physical and emotional abuse of female gymnasts were related to the elite end of the sport, according to the review.

The tyranny of the scales was coach-led.

The scale of emotional abuse was much larger than British Gymnastics had appreciated, according to the report.

During the 12-year period covered by the review, British Gymnastics received more than $38 million in UK Sport funding.

The recruitment of coaches from countries influenced by the former Soviet Union, whose technical skill and experience was sometimes accompanied by an attitude to the gymnast, left athletes feeling like commodities.

What were some of the examples given of abuse?

There are anecdotes from submissions.

  • One former elite gymnast described being made to stand on the beam for two hours because she was frightened to attempt a skill. Some gymnasts were strapped to bars for extended periods of time while others were made to climb the rope because they needed the toilet or exceeded a break time.
  • One gymnast was deliberately dropped from equipment and dragged across the gym floor by their arms, while others were pressured to to train on injuries, including broken bones.
  • One gymnast recalls at the age of seven being sat on by a coach, while a parent reported two coaches at once pushing their child's legs down into a split. An international competitor recalled their coach sitting on a gymnast's back, forcing their hips into the floor and then lifting up their knee.
  • Verbal comments made to gymnasts included that they were "a waste of space", "a joke" and "pathetic" - while in relation to excessive weight management, comments included "you look like a whale", "you look like you have a beer belly", and "your thighs are disgusting".
  • Some coaches went to damaging length to control what gymnasts ate and weighed. Gymnasts had their weights publicly announced, were told to send photographs to prove they had lost weight, and had their lunch packs and bags searched for food. Gymnasts would hide food, including in ceiling tiles, and were told "not to eat grapes" because "they are the highest-fat fruit".
  • As a result, a "significant" number of gymnasts developed dysfunctional relationships with food, weight and body image, and reports of purging were not uncommon in the submissions.

The "unacceptable culture" described in the report will not be fully eradicated until the national and international leadership of the sport publicly recognize it.

What are the recommendations?

Vulnerable and welfare, complaints handling, standards and educations, and governance and oversight are some of the areas recommended to British Gymnastics.

The recommendations should be done.

  • All club owners and managers should have mandatory safeguarding training, and high-performance gymnasts should have access to an independent disclosure service and dedicated welfare officer outside their club.
  • British Gymnastics must have a fit-for-purpose case management system that covers number and nature of complaints, and must ensure all welfare-related complaints about employed coaches are independently investigated.
  • The organisation should appoint a director of education and increase its direct contact with registered clubs.
  • British Gymnastics must appoint independent board members with relevant expertise.

What have the governing bodies said?

The gymnasts' experiences in the review are harrowing and distressing to read. No one in sport should be subjected to that kind of abuse.

We would like to publicly thank all of the brave people who came forward. You are heard. You have helped shape the future of gymnastics in Britain by making it safe and inclusive for future generations.

National governing bodies are responsible for theDuty of care to athletes and participants British Gymnastics didn't meet this standard.

We intend to continue funding British Gymnastics as we believe that withdrawing funding would not only prevent them from implementing the vital changes outlined in the report but also negatively impact on the support to and wellbeing of gymnasts now.

Funding for British Gymnastics will depend on the new leadership team making significant changes to the sport and the timelines set out in the report.

Sarah Powell, British Gymnastics' chief executive, said gymnasts' experiences as detailed in the review were not acceptable and she found the report emotional.

It was a "watershed moment" for gymnastics and all sports.

The gymnasts who stood up will make gymnastics different.

She said that British Gymnastics accepted all of the recommendations. We will do what needs to be done.

I would like to apologize to the gymnasts who have suffered because we did not work to the standards we set ourselves. We apologize.

There is no place for abuse of any kind in our sport and coaching standards of the past will not be those of the future, she said.

We will make sure the gymnast's voice is at the center of everything we do. Gymnastics will be changed for the better.

Why was the review commissioned?

The independent review was commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England. The review started in the month after.

The review looked at that.

  • Gymnasts' wellbeing and welfare is (and has been) at the centre of the culture of British Gymnastics, its registered clubs and member coaches and if not, why not.
  • Safeguarding concerns and complaints have been dealt with appropriately in the sport of gymnastics and if not, why not.
  • Gymnasts, or their parents, carers or guardians, have felt unable to raise complaints with appropriate authorities and if so, why.

The nature and volume of complaints received by British Gymnastics were investigated by the review.

How did we get here?

The report didn't include any mention of coaches or athletes.

  • July 2020: Nicole Pavier is among a number of gymnasts to make the first allegations of a "culture of fear" within the "mentally and emotionally abusive" sport of gymnastics.
  • Olympians Becky and Ellie Downie say abusive behaviour in gymnastics training became "ingrained" and "completely normalised", while then-British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen says she is "appalled and ashamed" by the allegations.
  • Olympic bronze medallist Amy Tinkler criticises British Gymnastics for the time it has taken to investigate a formal complaint she made in 2019.
  • A helpline is launched by the NSPCC and British Athletes Commission to support gymnasts. It receives more than 120 calls in its first five weeks.
  • August 2020: The Whyte Review is formally started.
  • Pavier's former coach, Claire Barbieri, is suspended, while British Gymnastics' head national coach Amanda Reddin steps aside after allegations are made against her. Both denied the allegations made against them.
  • Olympic bronze medallist Nile Wilson alleges gymnasts are "treated like pieces of meat".
  • September 2020: Two further coaches - Helen Potter and Rory Weavers - are temporarily suspended pending investigation. Both denied the allegations made against them.
  • October 2020: British Gymnastics chief executive Allen announces she will retire in December.
  • November 2020: British Gymnastics sets up an independent complaints process to oversee allegations of mistreatment by athletes.
  • February 2021: A group of 17 start legal action against British Gymnastics. A further 20 later join the group claim.
  • June 2021: Sarah Powell is named British Gymnastics chief executive, and says she is "under no illusions about the scale of change needed" to improve the culture at the organisation.
  • August 2021: British Gymnastics chairman Mike Darcey apologises to the gymnastics community for failing to act on allegations of mistreatment.
  • April 2022: BBC Sport reveals leading coach Liz Kincaid was pulled from Great Britain's coaching squad just weeks before the Tokyo Olympics after a serious allegation was made against her. She denied wrongdoing.
  • May 2022: National head coach Reddin steps down from her position with immediate effect. Previous claims against her were not upheld and her suspension was lifted, but another independent investigation is ongoing into "further historical complaints".
  • June 2022: BBC Sport reveals ex-acrobatic gymnast Eloise Jotischky is the first to win a civil case against British Gymnastics for the abuse she experienced in the sport, with the organisation admitting full liability.
  • The Whyte Review is published.

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