British Gymnastics: There will be 'zero tolerance' to abuse in the future

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports on British Gymnastics' action plan

British Gymnastics' action plan says there will be "zero tolerance" to abuse of any kind in the future.

It follows an ITV News investigation into widespread abuse in the sport, which led to a review into the scandal. The investigation, which began in 2020, led to a 300-page report being published.

It described a coach-led culture of fear within British Gymnastics that put glory above athletes' wellbeing which led to gymnasts being subjected to physical and emotional abuse.

Of the 400 submissions made to the report, more than 40% of gymnasts reported physically abusive behaviour, primarily during training.

Credit: ITV News

This behaviour included physical chastisement, inappropriate training on an injury, the enforcement of excessive training hours, training loads leading to physical pain and exhaustion beyond acceptable limits as well as over-stretching to the point of distress as a form of flexibility management.

It also reported gymnasts were denied food, water and toilet breaks during training sessions.

More than 50% of respondents reported an element of emotional abuse, such as shouting, swearing, name-calling and the use of belittling language.

Gymnasts also reported being subject to gaslighting, excessively controlling behaviour and suppressing athletes’ opinions and emotions.

Sarah Powell was unable to name which individual coaches were under investigation.

The ‘Reform ’25’ document has promised “zero tolerance” to cases of abuse, with more transparent complaints procedures and with the names of coaches from now on made available via the governing body’s official website. But it will not list those previously banned even if they still are, and coaches suspended or under investigation will also not be identified.

When speaking to ITV News, Chief Executive of British Gymnastics Sarah Powell was unable to name which individual coaches were under investigation.

"If they were a risk to children then they would be removed from that environment," she said.

"I can assure parents that if there is a risk to children then they will be suspended and they will not be in that coaching environment."

Former Olympian Jennifer McIlveen

But for gymnasts involved there's still a long way to go. Former Olympian Jennifer McIlveen told ITV News that "only one out of a hundred coaches named in the Whyte review have actually been banned."

She continued: "There are only eleven safeguarding caseworkers working to get through hundreds of complaints.

"There's still a lot more work that needs to be done to ensure that abuse isn't still happening now."

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