British Gymnastics CEO 'appalled and ashamed' by allegations of abusive coaches

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

The CEO of British Gymnastics said she is “appalled and ashamed” by allegations of abusive coaches reported by ITV News.

ITV News has reported shocking examples of bullying, and abuse - physical and emotional - at the heart of British gymnastics in recent days, which prompted the body to pledge a review.

There has been a week of shocking revelations – including claims from an eight-year-old girl describing how she was tied to bars and bullied by her coaches.

Another to speak out on Friday was Mel Brown, who gave up gymnastics after her experiences as a child.

“I used to get called a mess," Ms Brown told ITV News.

“It was my life and they took every part of happiness out of that.

“I couldn’t concentrate when I was at school because I was withdrawn."

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott explains what the reaction has been to the revelations:

Ms Brown says she was also mocked by her coaches for being partially deaf.

Three years ago Mel’s mum Tracey made a dossier of the club about her club to send to British Gymnastics. She was told her concerns were raised with the club and appropriate action taken.

British Gymnastics CEO Jane Allen had no comment when approached directly by ITV News.

  • British Gymnastics CEO Jane Allen refuses to speak outside home to ITV News:

Ms Allen, however, did praise the bravery of those speaking out - in a statement she said:

“The past week has been an incredibly difficult but hugely important one for the sport we love.

“Any mistreatment of gymnasts is inexcusable. It is vital that concerns are made public, whether that is through the media or our processes.

“I pay tribute to those who have spoken out – their bravery will help drive change within gymnastics.

“Personally, I am appalled and ashamed by the stories I have heard.

“We have worked hard to put in place a mandatory Positive Coaching Behaviours programme and an Integrity Unit to investigate allegations of emotional abuse and bullying.

“While those have been audited and accredited by leading experts in the field, most recently in May of this year, we clearly need to do more. And quickly.”

  • 'Every time we cried they would just push us harder and harder'

On Thursday, Cartoon Network confirmed they were pulling out of a partnership with British Gymnastics as a result of the allegations.

Several gymnasts have spoken to ITV News in recent days, detailing physical and verbal abuse, weight-shaming and bullying.

Former Olympic gymnast Louis Smith said in a video that some coaches in the sport are "wrong 'uns" adding "change is needed".

While the Downie sisters shared a statement on their social media pages, describing "an environment of fear and mental abuse" in the sport.

Ms Allen said the organisation is “determined to get to the bottom of these issues” and “change gymnastics for the better”.

She added: “The experiences of gymnasts highlighted this week have described fundamental issues within the gymnast-coach relationship.

“I expect the review and recommendations that come from it to address this and help provide clarity that helps protects gymnasts at every level.”

European Gymnastics said in a statement: "European Gymnastics wants to extend its support to all gymnasts and coaches and strongly condemns any gym culture that doesn’t put the athlete’s health and wellbeing first. 

"Gymnastics requires a lot of hard work and we owe it to our gymnasts to provide them with a safe and supportive environment. We applaud and encourage gymnasts to speak up. We recognise the athletes’ voice is a powerful one.