Why ITV News has told the story of abuse allegations in British Gymnastics

Credit: ITV News

The current scandal in gymnastics, and it is a scandal, will inevitably cause a level of emotional tension for those involved.

Uncomfortable tension between gymnasts loyal to certain coaches and others who feel damaged by the very same people. It is an intimate and sometimes unforgiving world.  

The Olympian Claudia Fragapane tweeted on Tuesday: “What upsets me & makes me angry is that the social media/tv portray people in a negative way before they have a chance to have their say.”

I am sympathetic to Fragapane, a highly successful and popular gymnast who clearly has had a great time in her sport. Because of that she is conflicted, she wants to express that but in doing so risks looking disrespectful to the many who have not enjoyed the same experience. 

For Beth Tweddle, Britain’s best known and most decorated women’s gymnast the same is true. It is a minefield.

I feel nevertheless it is important to point out that ITV News never sets out to portray people in a negative way; we report facts; corroborated facts.

We also always give everyone we intend to name a chance to “have their say".

This scandal in my view is not about good versus evil, it is far more nuanced than that and the intention, from where I’m sitting, is to end up in a much better and happier place.

And while ITV News offers each and every person the chance to speak out, invariably, for whatever reason, they don’t.

At the end of last week we approached then National Head Coach Amanda Reddin to see if she’d like to talk to us.

There is always more than one side to every conflict and we wanted to give her the opportunity to confront her critics.

I personally would love to hear from someone on the “other side of the fence” because their opinions and their experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s and are seldom heard.

Team GB coach Amanda Reddin. Credit: British Gymnastics

But Ms Reddin declined our offer and instead, in an email, simply refuted the allegations we put to her.

There was no apology, just a denial.

In fact, since current and former gymnasts have been emboldened to bare their souls, to talk about the mental scars that still trouble them, have you spotted one single apology?

Have you heard a figure in authority utter those elusive words ‘I’m sorry’?

I do not understand why that is so difficult.

It is perfectly possible to apologise without implying personal guilt.

And then, where has British Gymnastics been over the past month or so?

If there’s nothing to hide why has the CEO Jane Allen not been on the front foot?

Letters to club members and unchallenged opinion pieces in national newspapers does not really cut it; that is not leadership.

Sit down in front of a camera and answer some robust and detailed questions

Jane Allen took over as CEO of British Gymnastics in 2010.

If Ms Allen believes she is the right person to lead gymnastics through this crisis then surely she should be telling us all exactly why she’s come to that conclusion?

Seniority is a privilege but it comes with responsibility.

Whether you’re a chief executive, a head coach or a gym club owner, you benefit from the good times so you also need to step up when things get difficult.

That is the hard part of the job and it’s why you’re paid the big bucks.

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

This week, GB gymnast Kelly Simm joined Fragapane, questioning the treatment Amanda Reddin and others were getting.

“The way everything is continuing to come out in the media at the moment feels so unfair," she said.


You have to consider why this is happening in the first place.

There are two main reasons.

The first is the most significant and alien to those untouched by the dark side of gymnastics.

For decades many young girls, really young girls and boys too, have been body-shamed, physically assaulted, emotionally abused, bullied, stretched beyond tolerance, relentlessly trained on serious injuries, humiliated and screamed at, all in the name of gymnastics.

Ireland’s first female gymnastic Olympian, Ellis O'Reilly, told ITV News about her experiences

In the past couple of months ITV News has heard from young men and women who have developed serious eating disorders, who habitually self-harm, many who still need regular counselling and even one who tried to kill himself.

Many damaged former gymnasts, elite or not, carry emotional scars with them throughout their lives.

I have spoken to rational, intelligent, balanced middle-aged professionals who are still affected by their treatment as pre-pubescents; all courtesy of a gymnastics coach.

Surely a responsible media can’t ignore these experiences for the fear of offending someone?

For too long, no one has listened to these girls and boys, so they deserve to have their voices heard now.

Even the sport itself recognises this and that is why they are about to embark on an independent review.

So why are some coaches named and shamed and is it really necessary?

The reason is because the people who run the sport have not matched the courage of their gymnasts and explained themselves.

They also preside over a flawed complaints procedure and have done so for years.

The only reason Amanda Reddin’s name found its way into the public domain was because of her employers.

This is about British Gymnastics; not the media. 

Gymnasts who are abused have nowhere to turn to.

There is no independent set of ears and so eventually, when they’re pushed to almost breaking point, they gravitate to us.

You can only be ignored for so long before you look for help wherever you can get it.

You can’t blame them for that.

Look at the case of Rio medallist Amy Tinkler.

She eventually went through the proper complaint channels in December last year and is still waiting for an update, never mind an outcome.

When she went public out of frustration over the delays, suddenly British Gymnastics moved more quickly.

This is not how it should be but is exactly how it is.

Amy Tinkler filed a complaint about her experience to British Gymnastics. Credit: PA

We have received complaints, now running into double figures, about another prominent coach at a well-known club.

Undoubtedly there are those who don’t share those bad experiences but If we ignore their concerns because it means naming a coach, wouldn’t we be letting down those who’ve had the courage to approach us?

These gymnasts have decided to come to ITV News because they have either had their complaints ignored or fear if they do go through the governing body’s procedure they won’t be dealt with.   

We are here to provide a platform for those without one and will continue to do so.

Simm tweeted again yesterday morning “The last thing @claudia­_frag & I wanted was for anything to sound like it was against anyone who has been so brave in speaking out. Culture change is needed, it’s just the way it has had to all come about through the media has obviously been tough & very overwhelming..”

Her honest overnight reflection is an indication of just how complex and uncomfortable a situation many in the sport find themselves in.

Simm and Fragapane are two of the thousands of lucky ones, who’ve found gymnastics both enjoyable and rewarding. But there are many others for whom that is not the case; far too many.   

Our job at ITV News, our duty even, is to hold those in power to account. And if they fall short and leave broken minds and bodies in their wake, it is our responsibility to step in.

I am proud of what ITV News has done so far, and I am more proud of those who’ve had the courage to trust us.

British Gymnastics has allowed its sport to drift into the toxic world now being exposed.

The journey to the other side will not be pain free but then nothing worth fighting for ever is.