17 former British gymnasts are alleging they suffered physical and psychological abuse

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  • The alleged abuse was at the hands of British Gymnast coaches and affected athletes from the ages of six to 23 years old.

    17 former British gymnasts are alleging they suffered both physical and psychological abuse at the hands of British Gymnastics coaches.

    The women and girls range in age from 15 to 43. They share the conduct of coaches and people in positions of power spanned physical assault, abusive coaching techniques, intimidating and bullying behaviour, and inappropriate use of physical force.

    These are just a few of the abuse claims being made. At the time of the alleged mistreatment, athletes were aged between six and 23 years old.

    Further to the physical abuse claims, they share that they were bullied. A ‘culture of body shaming’ existed in training sessions; athletes were encouraged to ‘starve themselves’ to reach specific weights. If they didn’t, they were given ‘punishment conditioning’.

    They also claim they were subject to a ‘cavalier’ attitude in response to pain or injury, and that coaches failed to supervise in an appropriate manner for the stunts they were practicing. These stunts, by nature, can be dangerous.

    As a result of the coaches behaviour, the report shares that ‘in almost all cases’, athletes have since suffered with a range of mental health disorders, from depression, to anxiety, to PTSD and OCD.

    The letter also reveals many still struggle with ‘eating disorders, body image issues, and stunted physical development’ to this day.

    17 former British gymnasts are alleging they suffered physical and psychological abuse

    Jennifer Pinches of Great Britain competes at the London 2012 Olympic Games

    The claimants expressed their concerns in a Letter Before Action. In the document, they share that they were kicked, punched or slapped when moves were executed incorrectly.

    In the letter, they said: “British Gymnastics implemented a model of suspended pre-pubescence. It lead to generations of girls with eating disorders, body image issues, and deliberately stunted physical development.”

    This follows last year’s shocking Netflix documentary, Athlete A, which shared the decades of abuse former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar inflicted.

    Nicole Pavier is one of the gymnasts among the claimants stepping forward, pictured competing above. She’s shared that she wants the move to “ensure the safety of future generations”.

    Jennifer Pinches, an Olympian who competed at the London 2012 games, is also calling for change. She said: “For too long we have seen British Gymnastics prioritise podiums over people. This has led to untold damage to the lives of young people. It is a heartbreaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to. This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.”

    An investigation into the claims is underway.

    At current, British Gymnastics have not responded in full. They’ve said: “It would not be appropriate or fair to all parties for us to make any comment until we have had the opportunity for it to be fully considered.”

    If you have suffered physical or psychological abuse, remember – you are not alone. Head to the Mind website for more resources on how to get help. 

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