British Gymnastics is under fire for psychological abuse of athletes

In 2018, longtime USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was finally brought to justice for molesting young athletes throughout his career and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. His conviction brought new hope to survivors and encouraged athletes to come forward about the abuse they have endured. As a result, British gymnasts have come forward with allegations of long-term abuse within Britain’s gymnastics organization. 

Seventeen female former gymnasts have alleged that they and others have suffered decades of controlling behavior, bullying and inappropriate physical contact while being part of British Gymnastics. They allege that the abuse has been done under the guise of wanting the athletes to do whatever it takes to win, with some survivors being as young as six years old. The athletes are seeking financial compensation and have expressed a desire for British Gymnastics to admit their neglectful and harmful behavior. 

Gymnasts are theorizing that more survivors will speak about their own experiences and that these accounts may even extend to men. Calling attention to the negative experiences and practices in gymnastics and other sports is very important, as we can see there are so many athletes who have experienced harmful mental and physical treatment. 

“This is a landmark moment in our campaign for justice,” claimant and campaign director of Gymnastics for Change Claire Heafford said. “This is not and has never been about a few bad apples. This is about decades of systemic abuse, encouraged and covered up by those at the top.”

Claimant Jennifer Pinches also stated that the institution of British Gymnastics has valued status and accolades over the well-being of its athletes by allowing this behavior to continue. Many athletes are speaking out to hopefully improve and bring awareness to the issues within the gymnastics culture. 

This news comes not long after the former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach John Geddert was found dead by suicide shortly after being charged with human trafficking. These events in the U.S. have inspired athletes around the world to take action against harmful and inappropriate behavior within the sports world. 

For example, Gymnastics Australia is taking action by requesting that a human rights group investigate complaints regarding inappropriate behavior, while Gymnastics New Zealand recently apologized to survivors for what was allowed to happen under their institution. 

There is a clear pattern here, and it is even more important to bring awareness to these types of issues. This is not about one or two “bad apples”, this is not a miniscule issue, but rather a major systemic and cultural problem.