Confidential helpline launches for gymnasts following abuse scandal

The helpline is a joint project between the British Athletes Commission and the NSPCC. Credit: PA

A confidential helpline is being launched for current and former gymnasts in the wake of a series of abuse allegations brought to light by ITV News.

The joint project by the British Athletics Commission (BAC) and the NSPCC is aimed at gymnasts who have concerns or experiences about abuse or bullying in the sport.

Trained counsellors will be on hand to offer support or guidance to anyone with safeguarding concerns.

ITV News has revealed a series of abuse allegations from junior to elite gymnastics, with former-Olympic competitors speaking out too.

Ellis O'Reilly competing in 2015. Credit: PA

Ireland's first ever female Olympic gymnast Ellis O'Reilly told ITV News she was warned to quit the sport or "face life in a wheelchair".

British Gymnastics announced an Independent Review following the series of reports, and has since stepped aside to allow UK Sport and Sport England to co-commission the review.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless described the "reports emerging from gymnastics in recent weeks" as "extremely disturbing".

  • Vicki Aggar, chair of the British Athletes Commission (BAC), told ITV News the priority is to ensure the review remains independent and will "hold anybody implicated to account"

The launch of the helpline is the first component of a new Athlete Support Unit which the BAC says - when up and running - will provide full administrative and welfare support to any case referred to it.

On the launch the BAC's Head of Athlete Support, Sam Little said: "We applaud the bravery and courage of those who have spoken up and shared their experiences.

"Abuse has absolutely no place in modern-day sport, and that’s why, with the launch of the helpline today, we are unveiling what is just the first step in our ambitious package of athlete support measures.

"We want to provide a safe place for athletes and others to come forward and seek support and advice. We recognise how difficult it is to speak out and we know some are fearful to do so.”

  • Vicki Aggar says the helpline will be a "triage service" with experts on the end of the line to refer athletes, depending on the nature of the allegations and to provide "end-to-end support"

The helpline number is 0800 056 0566