According to an independent investigator’s report calling for management reform, British Gymnastics did not address abuse complaints for years because it prioritized financial growth and medals.
The White Review is the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation after prominent British gymnasts went public in the summer of 2020 about years of emotional and physical abuse by coaches.
“I have come to the conclusion that the well-being and well-being of gymnasts has not been at the center of BG culture for most of the reporting period,” Ann White wrote in her 306-page report published Thursday, “and until very recently it did not feature as such. noticeable as it should have been within the World Class program and within the development paths used for talented gymnasts.”
The mistreatment of gymnasts, mostly young girls, included bullying, dangerous weight management, and physical force. A smaller percentage of cases are related to sexual violence.
“One former elite gymnast said she was forced to stand on beam for 2 hours because she was afraid to try a certain skill,” the report says. “There have been several allegations of gymnasts being tied to the bars for extended periods of time, sometimes under extreme stress.”
White, commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England, blamed former BG chief executive Jane Allen for a “lack of leadership and organizational failure” in relation to the welfare of the athletes. The report says Allen, who retired in 2020 after 10 years on the job, fostered a culture that prioritized membership and financial growth.
“Unfortunately, the emphasis on financial security, while undoubtedly important, was not matched by board-level attention to the culture, protection, well-being and voice of gymnasts during the reporting period,” White wrote.
White received information from 400 people and 118 separate messages were sent to the British Athletes’ Commission hotline. Among them are 133 current and former gymnasts. White referred more than three dozen cases to law enforcement due to possible criminal activity. The review covered activities from 2008 to 2020.
Among her 17 recommendations, White called for the hiring of a director of education, an overhaul of the case management system, and the appointment of independent board members “with relevant professional experience in the field of athlete protection and welfare.” She also called on the government to appoint an independent ombudsman to protect children in sports.
British Gymnastics said it accepted all of the recommendations and key findings.
“We won’t shy away from doing what needs to be done,” said CEO Sarah Powell, who was hired last October. “I want to sincerely apologize to the gymnasts who suffered because we didn’t work to the standards we set ourselves. We are very sorry.
“Now we will fully consider the details of the review and develop a roadmap that fully takes into account the recommendations. We will create a new culture and ensure that the voice of the gymnast is at the center of everything we do. We will change gymnastics for the better.”
British gymnasts performed two years ago, inspired in part by Athlete A’s documentary about sexual harassment in US gymnastics. The film follows women seeking justice for Larry Nassar, who, at 29 years old as a doctor for the US women’s gymnastics team, used treatment as a front to molest hundreds of young athletes. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison in 2018.
British Gymnastics also faced legal action from female plaintiffs who alleged that bullying, behavior control and inappropriate use of physical force against athletes as young as 6 were part of a “win at all costs” mentality.
In the United States, Olympian Simone Biles and dozens of other women who claim they were sexually assaulted by Nassar are demanding more than $1 billion from the FBI for not stopping a sports doctor when the agency first received charges against him.