Young gymnasts starved and made to hang from rings as punishment, report reveals

The Whyte Review has revealed shocking accounts of abuse (Picture: Getty Images)

Young gymnastics were starved, made to hang from rings as a punishment and denied toilet breaks as part of a ‘systemic’ culture and physical and emotional abuse, an independent investigation has found.

The Whyte Review, commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England, has found British Gymnastics enabled a toxic culture in a damning 306-page review led by Anne Whyte QC, published on Thursday.

The report reveals coaches had publicly shamed young girls over their weight – with some forced to hang on the rings in the gym for a prolonged period of time as a punishment for being late.

Others were forced to balance on the beam for two hours as a punishment for being late, prevented from going to the toilet and banned from drinking water during training sessions.

‘I have concluded that gymnasts’ well-being and welfare has not been at the centre of [British Gymnastics’] culture for much of the period of the Review and has not, until very recently, featured as prominently as it ought to have done within the World Class Programme,’ wrote Whyte.

The review revealed horrific personal testimonies, including one of a seven-year-old being sat on by a coach and another who said they feared their legs would ‘snap’ during a process in which they were being pushed down to perform the splits.

Gymnasts reported instances of being made to wear a dunce’s cap and being called a ‘cry-baby’ in front of their peers. One parent described how a complaint about their child being called a ‘faggot’ on a daily basis was ‘shrugged off as a joke’ by the club’s welfare officer.

Whyte went on to describe a catalogue of failures by the governing body, including its inability to efficiently deal with complaints, its disregard for athletes’ opinions and its reluctance to intervene over well-known weight-management issues, which she described as the ‘tyranny of the scales’.

She accused former chief executive Jane Allen of a ‘lack of leadership’ and an ‘organisational failure… to appreciate the central importance of athlete welfare’.

The review also criticised UK Sport for presiding over a culture in which it’s own ‘Mission Process’ was ‘window dressing for those sports, like gymnastics, where medals were realistically anticipated and that the medals mattered more… than athlete welfare’.

British Gymnastics and UK Sport both issued apologies, with Allen’s successor Sarah Powell saying: ‘I am sorry – to them for what they have experienced, to their parents and all those around them.’

Additional reporting from Press Association

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