British Gymnastics faces an enormous task to restore trust and regain credibility after its shortcomings were exposed in the critical 306-page Whyte Review published on Thursday.
Anne Whyte QC drew on more than 400 testimonies to reveal shocking cases of abuse and systemic governance failures, centered on prioritizing the organization’s money and success over the well-being of athletes.
Despite a “genuine apology” from British Gymnastics’ new chief executive Sarah Powell, those affected cast doubt on British Gymnastics’ ability to implement changes and said the review did not go far enough.
Campaign group Gymnasts for Change, which represents many of the athletes who have made allegations against the governing body, said that while it welcomed the review, “ultimately, the recommendations fall far short of what is needed.”
He added: “It is too late to change a culture of abuse. Every day, without holistic and complete changes, another gymnast is put at risk and these recommendations fall far short of the necessary change.”
Whyte revealed gruesome personal testimonies, including overstretching as a gymnast feared her legs would “snap”, deprivation of food and drink leading to eating disorders and emotional abuse, including ridiculing gymnasts who cried or needed the bathroom.
Whyte accused Powell’s predecessor Jane Allen, who retired last year, of a “lack of leadership” and presided over an “organizational failure … than athlete well-being.
Among his recommendations, Whyte urged the governing body to ensure its grievance system is “fit for purpose” and urged it to appoint board members with specific protection experience and an education director with overall responsibility for the education of coaches and officials. of well-being. .
Powell said British Gymnastics accepted all of the report’s recommendations and “will not shy away” from taking the necessary steps to restore confidence both in the governing body and in the sport as a whole.
“This is a genuine apology, from the sport, from myself, from the leadership,” Powell added. “We have to chart a new path, a new roadmap. Gymnastics will be different because of the bravery of the young people who demonstrated.”
Four-time Olympic medalist Louis Smith said the governing body should have no illusions that it has a lot of work ahead of it before it can rid itself of its association with a “culture of fear”.
Smith wrote on social media: “If you’re wondering if the culture of fear has ended in British gymnastics, then take a look to see how many active GB gymnasts publicly support Whyte’s review.
“British gymnastics need to remember they don’t own anyone and having an opinion is not an attack!!”