Olympic medalist Amy Tinkler has warned that British gymnasts will not be safe until authorities act on the Whyte Review’s damning findings about widespread abuse in their sport.
In her 306-page report, Anne Whyte QC last week described in harrowing detail how seven-year-old gymnasts were subjected to terror, intimidation and, in some cases, sexual abuse.
“One wonders how many sports scandals it will take before the government at the time realizes it needs to take more steps to protect children who play sports,” concludes Whyte.
Tinkler, who won a solo bronze at Rio 2016, said Whyte’s findings regarding weight management techniques, described as the “tyranny of the scales”, struck a chord.
Tinkler said he had been a victim of weight shame, and in September 2020, he shared a chain of emails in which his weight was discussed by a trainer and a nutritionist.
“It’s nice to have the affirmation that I and others are telling the truth,” she wrote. “Since I made the decision to inform British Gymnastics about my experience two and a half years ago, I have felt like an outcast, a liar. Society knows we shouldn’t treat whistleblowers like that and I hope BG starts engaging with us instead. to keep us at a distance.
“We are not the enemy, we are the ones who want to ensure that gymnastics is a safe and spectacular sport for everyone. Talk to us.”
Tinkler joined a number of athletes to express concern that no coach has been held accountable for the abuse of hundreds of gymnasts. Sarah Powell, chief executive of British Gymnastics, admitted that her predecessor Jane Allen still received compensation related to her abrupt retirement at the height of the scandal in October 2020.
Women’s coach Amanda Reddin – one of the main architects of Britain’s seven medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics – also left by “mutual agreement”. However, the sport has yet to punish any of those who directly bullied or traumatized athletes.
‘I don’t see how we can advance as a sport’
“There is no way this volume of abuse can occur without there being bullies,” Tinkler wrote in a social media post. “I am concerned that there are no reports of actions or remedies regarding the abusers, whether they are coaches or support staff, they need to be removed from the sport.
“I therefore ask BG, UK Sport and Sport England to urgently update the gymnastics community as to whether any action has been taken against the perpetrators reported in the Whyte Review.
“Otherwise how will I know, or any gymnast or parent of a gymnast, if the same bullies will still be in the gym the next time we go in there? Until we get clear on that, I don’t see how we can move forward as a sport.” in a safe and pleasant way.”
Former English gymnast Nicole Pavier, who was abused at two clubs in different parts of the country, called for a more open approach to protection and suggested clubs should keep a register listing any allegations made against coaches who work there.
“We are potentially setting families up for a downfall as they don’t have the knowledge and power to make these decisions,” she said.
After the Whyte Review was published, British Gymnastics Chief Executive Sarah Powell, who has been in the role since October, said the organization “accepts all important recommendations and findings. We will not fail to do what is necessary.”
“I want to sincerely apologize to the gymnasts who suffered as a result of not working up to the standards we set. We are sorry.”
She added: “Let me be clear; there is no place for abuse of any kind in our sport and the training standards of the past will not be those of the future.
“We’re going to build a new culture and make sure the gymnast’s voice is at the heart of everything we do. We’re going to change gymnastics for the better.”