Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott
In the summer of 2012, Britain’s affection for its athletes had never been deeper.
The country came to a standstill as Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony led us through a potted British history; we were then entranced on Super Saturday as the gold medal rush began and continued to live and breathe every twist and turn the Games threw up.
There was undoubtedly a feel good factor that infected most of us for two-and-a-bit weeks; the usual cynicism which is so often the narrative in the UK temporarily went into hibernation.
What added to the spectacle was that Team GB, backed by national lottery funds, had never performed better on the world stage.
A fast-growing winning culture meant Britain was starting to challenge the traditional Olympic superpowers, the usual world order was disturbed and we loved it.
At British Gymnastics, Jane Allen the CEO, was leading the chase for podium places.
She had come here in 2010 after 13 years running gymnastics in Australia.
But the “no-nonsense” approach she brought with her and her direct style was unsettling some of those she worked alongside, among them Ros Anwyl, the membership manager.
“If you dared to speak out you were very quickly put back in your box. There was a culture of fear that she fostered,” Ms Anwyl told ITV News.
Ms Anwyl was also responsible for welfare and dealing with complaints.
In late 2011, one of those concerned was a high-profile coach.
She says the police and local authority agreed the coach should be suspended while an investigation was carried out but Ms Anwyl says the decision made Jane Allen angry.
Ms Anwyl said: “Out of courtesy to the CEO, because of his profile within the organisation, I told her. To say that she wasn’t happy would be an understatement."
“I felt as if I was letting down the gymnasts, that they would think what’s the point of making complaints. Cause nobody is going to listen. That’s how I was left feeling and still feel like that. I feel that I did let them down by leaving.”
“I should have faced it. I should have stood up to her, but I don’t think I would have been allowed to,” she added.
The coach was later cleared after that investigation but long before then Ms Anwyl resigned - she says the fallout from her disagreement with Allen simmered for days and feeling under pressure she decided to resign.
British Gymnastics have said they "absolutely refute these claims" made by Ms Anwyl.
Since ITV News first started reporting what has become a growing scandal in British Gymnastics, we have been told repeatedly about complaint cases that seem to go nowhere and allegations that take too long to investigate.
A criticism that was confirmed on Tuesday by Rio Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler. In a statement on her social media platforms she called out British Gymnastics for taking so long dealing with a complaint of hers.
Most worryingly she said the governing body’s delay was putting “vulnerable young gymnasts at risk of abuse.” This is happening right now, despite the seemingly endless flow of stories of abuse from former or current gymnasts.
As a junior Aasha Kimpton was a funded athlete. She claims to have been abused by her coach on several separate occasions.
“I’d get migraines and I remember in one training session I asked the coach for, if I could just have a break and get some paracetamol and I was told to ‘overdose and die’ for all she cared,” Ms Kimpton told ITV News.
She says she, and many of her teammates, were mistreated on a regular basis by their coach.
“I had an injured wrist and I was training on the beam and I’d actually fallen off from doing a skill that I was scared to do and I ended up breaking my foot and no one in the gym came over after seeing me fall to see if I was OK,” Ms Kimpton said.
She added: “I kind of hopped out of the main gym crying and then the coach in question threw her phone at me to say “call your mother, just get out of my sight”.
She was part of two complaints to British Gymnastics about her coach in 2012. The first regarding her broken foot, the second when she witnessed a teammate getting assaulted.
Recently she discovered that before then, the governing body had already received two complaints about the same coach, one in 2009, the other in 2011 after a gym owner claimed to see the coach abusing one of Aasha’s teammates, despite the fact she was clearly distressed.
Shortly afterwards a safeguarding officer claimed to have overheard the coach abusing the same young gymnast.
A further complaint in 2015 led to a police investigation and when that had concluded, despite the fact no charges were brought, the coach was given a suspension; eight years since a red flag was first raised to British Gymnastics. The coach in question is still suspended.
Ms Kimpton can’t understand why it took so long and how many young gymnasts suffered as a result.
She told ITV News: “It just doesn’t make sense to me to be honest that they would just allow this happen to children 8, 9-years-old, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
“Again, if they had taken those complaints seriously, I wouldn’t have experienced what, the abuse, and so many other people.”
Aasha Kimpton’s coach denies the allegations and any wrongdoing.
On the condition of anonymity, we spoke to one former employee who worked at the heart of British Gymnastics for several years.
She told us they were aware that when complaints came in, they wouldn’t always end up being dealt with by welfare officers.
She told ITV News: “Obviously if it’s a national coach it would bypass that particular department. So why would a child come forward to make a disclosure knowing that nothing would be done.”
If she was a parent with a son or daughter interested in gymnastics she says she would not be confident in allowing them to do the sport.
She told ITV News: “Currently, no, knowing what I’ve seen, no. There’s been a lot of parents that I’m aware of that’ve made complaints regarding national coaches which have fallen on deaf ears.”
British Gymnastics responded with the following statement:
We absolutely refute these claims.
Around the time in question a coach was investigated and suspended. The suspension was subsequently reviewed by the British Gymnastics Case Referral Management Group – in accordance with our procedures - and lifted. Jane Allen has never been a member of the Case Referral Management Group and did not seek to rescind any suspension. Internal records confirm that is the case.
The staff member was invited to an HR Investigation meeting, which is not a disciplinary meeting, to establish the facts of whether the correct procedures had been followed from the outset to ensure the integrity of the process.
The staff member provided a written submission and then resigned shortly after. We have reviewed both the written submission and her resignation letter and no mentions of the claims you state are contained within either.
We have checked our records and are confident of the information within this response.
Should the individual have any issues with our procedures those should be put to the Independent Review.
Anonymous long-term British Gymnastics employee
Again, we absolutely refute these claims. We do not recognise them in anyway.
We would be happy to address specific claims if you could make them to us. However, these appear to be blanket allegations and personal opinions from an anonymous source. How could we respond to them?
Any allegations can be provided to the Independent Review.
This case is complex and still ongoing. Given the complexities we would welcome the Independent Review looking at our handling of this case.
The police completed their investigations in November 2017 but did not make charges.
The coach remains suspended as British Gymnastics continues its investigation, including independent expert assessments.
For a number of different reasons, the case is still outstanding and the coach remains suspended at present.
If anyone feels they have new information related to this case we would strongly encourage it being submitted to our Integrity Unit.
We have been in regular touch with Amy Tinkler and her mother throughout this process. It is wrong to suggest otherwise.
An initial summary of the complaint was made in late December 2019. Full evidence was provided in mid-March 2020.
As we have already advised Amy and her family, the investigation phase is now complete and we have moved to the next stage of procedures.
To be clear, every complaint is looked at in accordance with our procedures by our Integrity Unit to assess immediate risk to gymnasts.
If the evidence available at the time of the initial complaint suggests an immediate risk of harm to gymnasts, we take immediate action to protect gymnasts.
These are often complex cases dealing with multiple issues across an elongated timeframe.
The procedures are in place to protect the integrity of the process and ensure fairness for all parties involved.
We encourage any gymnast who feels they have been mistreated should report it either to our Integrity Unit, or by calling the BAC/NSPCC Helpline on on 0800 056 0566.
A UK Sport spokesperson said: “The allegations which have emerged in recent weeks have been very upsetting to hear and we urge any gymnast who has been affected to contact the new confidential support hotline setup by the British Athletes Commission and the NSPCC - 0800 056 0566."
"We recently confirmed that alongside Sport England, we will be commissioning an independent review into the allegations of mistreatment by British Gymnastics and we must allow that process run its course and establish the facts before commenting more specifically."
"We believe that the vast majority of people in high-performance sport are doing the right thing. However, anyone working within sport must be committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity and there is no room for anyone in sport who does not want to adhere to these standards.
"UK Sport has no regulatory powers, and each NGB is an independent body with the responsibility for governing and regulating its own sport."
"However, our role as an investor of public funds does mean that we can attach reasonable conditions which a sport would need to meet for us to continue to invest."
We showed the allegations to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, he said: "The allegations relating to the treatment of young athletes within gymnastics are shocking and upsetting.”
"There is absolutely no place for any sort of bullying or abuse in sport and anyone responsible for such behaviour must be held accountable, with support offered to those affected.
“The highest standards of professional conduct and integrity must be in place in our sports' governing bodies.
“I welcome UK Sport and Sport England commissioning an Independent Review into British Gymnastics.”
Ros Anwyl believes now is the time for Jane Allen to resign and accept responsibility.
If she has a regret, it is that she quit when she did.
She believes if she had stayed she might just have made gymnastics a safer place.
It isn’t just gymnasts whose lives have changed as a result of this sport.
Anyone with concerns of bullying or abuse in British Gymnastics, whether a parent, gymnast or adult involved in the sport, please call 0800 056 0566 from 8am – 10pm weekdays or 9am – 6pm weekends.
Trained staff offer support, advice and guidance, and refer cases on to other agencies as appropriate, including the police.