Ex-Bristol gymnast says British Gymnastic review highlights "sport wide and systemic issue"

09-03-21 Nicole Pavier-ITV News
Nicole Pavier is one of many former gymnast pushing for change in the sport. Credit: ITV News

A gymnast from Bristol says the latest review into British Gymnastics following a series of allegations of abuse says it has highlighted "a sport wide and systemic issue."

The findings were in an interim report of the Whyte Review, which is investigating the governing body.

Up to 39 of the cases that were uncovered were so serious that they have been flagged to authorities because of suspected criminal conduct or children being at risk.

Nicole Pavier, who is one of the gymnasts involved in the legal proceedings against British Gymnastics, told ITV News that the findings of the report weren't a surprise to those involved in the sport or those who faced abuse.

She also added that while it is important the issue is finally being highlighted, it was "a great shame it wasn’t reviewed sooner."

"Safeguarding needs to be at the heart of what we do when working with children and young adults.

"I think the scale to which this has not been a priority is highlighted by the amount of cases that needed to be referred to local authorities safeguarding officers and had not been at the time of the incidents."

Almost 400 individuals have contributed to the Whyte review which has heard "re-occurring issues" of bullying, extreme weight management and the use of excessive physical force among other complaints. 

Around 1,000 cases out of a possible 3,500 have been reviewed Credit: PA Images

More than 90 clubs and 100 coaches have been identified in the submissions which range from the Olympic to the grassroots level of the sport.

A call for evidence in the autumn of 2020 "exceeded expectations" and the full report is now hoped to be completed by the end of August, just after the Tokyo Olympics.

One of the reasons it is taking so long is the reviewing of past complaints.

British Gymnastics estimates it has up to 3,500 closed cases over the relevant years 2008-2020. It has only been able to provide information on the most recent 1,000 cases because of changes in its case management system. 

Nicole says she and other gymnasts who have spoken out want to protect gymnasts of the future, "nothing will change what happened to me when I was a gymnast but knowing we've used our experiences to change the sport and make it safer for future gymnasts is all any of us really want."

Jane Allen took over as CEO of British Gymnastics in 2010. Credit: PA Images

British Gymnastics interim CEO Alastair Marks, who took over from Jane Allen in January, said: "British Gymnastics welcomes the Whyte Review’s interim report. We are fully committed to doing everything possible to help the review get the answers it needs to do what is right for the sport and gymnasts.

"I remain appalled by the claims I have heard and alarmed that some gymnasts do not feel that they can have their voice heard and have a future within the sport. I want to be clear to them that I will fight to ensure that no one raising concerns will ever see their gymnastic opportunities detrimentally impacted.

"There is no place for abuse in our sport and we are determined and committed to change it for the better.

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