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Abuse in British Gymnastics


During the summer of 2020 a number of British gymnasts waived their anonymity and disclosed publicly for the first time their experiences of physical, emotional and mental abuse they alleged to have suffered at the hands of their coaches.

The nature of the allegations included:

  • Sustaining physical injuries due to over-training;
  • Physical abuse with gymnasts being slapped, hit with a stick, being pushed to the floor and dragged by their hair for failing to perform correctly;
  • Excessive training which caused some gymnasts to sustain ripped skin on their hands, which coaches would pour surgical spirit over;
  • Bullying; and
  • Being told they were overweight and not to eat anything with threats of ‘consequences’ if they did not lose sufficient weight in a short period of time.

It is further alleged that these experiences have caused gymnasts to subsequently suffer from various psychological issues including eating disorders, episodes of self-harm and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A number of gymnasts have suggested that this type of abuse was ingrained and part of the culture within British Gymnastics when they were growing up. Despite this, they have said that they felt unable to speak out at the time because they were afraid of risking any prospect they may have had of being chosen for the Olympic team.


In July 2020, in response to the experiences disclosed by the gymnasts, British Gymnastics confirmed that they would launch an independent enquiry into the allegations made. In August 2020, UK Sport and Sport England confirmed that they had co-commissioned Anne Whyte QC to undertake a thorough and impartial review into the allegations (“the Whyte Review”).

The outcome of the review will address whether:

  1. 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;
  2. Safeguarding concerns and complaints have been dealt with appropriately in the sport of gymnastics and if not, why not; and,
  3. Gymnasts, or their parents, carers or guardians, have felt unable to raise complaints with appropriate authorities and if so, why.

If any failings are identified, the review shall make the appropriate recommendations in order to ensure that in the future:

  1. Gymnasts’ wellbeing and welfare is at the centre of the culture of British Gymnastics;
  2. Safeguarding concerns and complaints in the sport of gymnastics are raised with the appropriate authority and appropriately resolved in a timely manner; and,
  3. Gymnasts have appropriate pathways and the necessary support to raise concerns and complaints.

The review commenced with a call for evidence, which closed on 9 October 2020. To date, more than 350 people have provided information to the review, which includes parents, gymnasts and coaches involved in gymnastics. We understand that the review will now be contacting many of those who have provided information to allow them to discuss their experiences.

What next?

The review has confirmed that on conclusion of their investigation a final written report will be produced and provided to UK Sport and Sport England.

At the end of October, Anne Whyte QC confirmed that the review was now in the process of contacting those individuals and organisations who had provided their response to the call for evidence. It is understood that this will take a number of months to complete.

Whilst a further update/final report is awaited from the Whyte Review, this process underlines the need for organisations to ensure that, following complaints such as these, an independent review and investigation is imperative. This allows such organisations to understand the allegations as well as improve their processes where required to ensure that, in the future, individuals are offered sufficient protection through safeguarding and are provided a clear pathway allowing them to raise concerns and complaints.

UK Sport have confirmed that on receipt of the final report they will work with Sport England and British Gymnastics to ensure the necessary recommendations and reforms are implemented in order to protect participants at all levels of the sport moving forward.

Details of the outcome of the review are awaited with an interest.

For more information, please contact Patrick Williams, Solicitor. 



Patrick Williams

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