Picture: 123RF/PASSIFLORA
Picture: 123RF/PASSIFLORA

Sydney — Gymnastics Australia has apologised to athletes under its care who experienced abuse and has vowed to investigate all matters of misconduct after the Australian Human Rights Commission published an independent review on the culture and practices of gymnastics in the country.

Australia’s human rights watchdog commissioned the review of the country’s gymnastics programme in August last year after complaints of physical and mental abuse.

Former Australian gymnasts shared their accounts of being assaulted by coaches and made to train and compete while injured.

Gymnastics Australia said it will adopt all 12 recommendations made in the report, which include strengthening coach engagement and accountability, and broadening the sport’s understanding of child abuse and neglect.

“Gymnastics Australia unreservedly apologises to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport,” Gymnastics Australia said in a statement on Monday.

“The board of Gymnastics Australia will oversee the response to the report. The gymnastics Australia integrity committee, established last year, will provide oversight of the implementation of the recommendations.”

The review said Gymnastics Australia’s coaching practices created a risk of abuse and harm to athletes.

It added that the country’s gymnastics federation was not adequately addressing complaints of abuse and harm and not effectively safeguarding children and young people.

The report said a focus on “winning-at-all-costs” and an acceptance of negative and abusive coaching behaviours led to the silencing of athletes, along with an increased risk of abuse and harm with significant short- and long-term impact on gymnasts.

The mistreatment of gymnasts came into the spotlight last year after the release of HBO’s documentary At the Heart of the Gold and the Netflix documentary Athlete A, based on newspaper investigations into the abuse of American athletes that led to the jailing of long-time USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar in January 2018.

Reuters

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