Amy Tinkler calls for abusive coaches to be banned from gymnastics

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Amy Tinkler calls for abusive coaches to be banned from gymnastics - AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Amy Tinkler calls for abusive coaches to be banned from gymnastics - AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler has warned British gymnasts will not be safe until authorities act on the damning findings of the Whyte Review into widespread abuse in her sport.

In her 306-page report, Anne Whyte QC outlined last week in harrowing detail how gymnasts as young as seven were subjected to terror, intimidation, and, in some cases, sexual abuse.

"One wonders how many sporting scandals it will take before the government of the day appreciates it needs to take more action to protect children who participate in sport," Whyte concludes.

Tinkler, who claimed a floor exercise bronze at the Rio 2016, said Whyte's findings in relation to weight-management techniques, described as the "tyranny of the scales", had struck a chord.

Tinkler said she was a victim of weight-shaming and, in September 2020, shared an e-mail chain in which her weight was discussed by a coach and a nutritionist.

"It feels good to have affirmation that I, and others, are telling the truth," she wrote. "Since taking the decision to inform British Gymnastics of my experience two and a half years ago I’ve been made to feel like an outcast, a liar. Society knows we shouldn’t treat whistleblowers like this and I hope BG starts to engage with us, rather than keeping us at arm’s length.

"We’re not the enemy, we’re the ones that want to make sure gymnastics is a safe, secure and spectacular sport for all. Talk to us."

Tinkler joined a host of athletes to express concern that no coaches have been held accountable for the abuse of hundreds of young girl gymnasts. Sarah Powell, chief executive of British Gymnastics, admitted that her predecessor Jane Allen still received a severance payment related to her abrupt retirement at the height of the scandal in Oct 2020.

Women’s head coach Amanda Reddin – a key architect of Britain’s seven-medal haul at the 2016 Rio Olympics – also left by "mutual agreement". However, the sport has yet to punish any of those who directly bullied or traumatised athletes.

' I don’t see how we can move forward as a sport'

"There is no way such a volume of abuse could occur without there being abusers," Tinkler wrote in a social media post. "I am concerned as to why there are no reports of actions or remedies taking place in regards to the abusers, whether they be coaches or support staff, they need to be removed from the sport.

"So I ask BG, UK Sport and Sport England to urgently update the gymnastics community on whether any actions have been taken against the abusers reported in the Whyte Review.

"Otherwise how am I to know, or any gymnast or parent of a gymnast, whether the same abusers will still be in the gym the next time we go in there? Until we have clarity on this I don’t see how we can move forward as a sport in a safe, secure and enjoyable way."

Former England gymnast Nicole Pavier, who suffered abuse at two clubs in different parts of the country, called for a more open approach to safeguarding and suggested clubs should hold a register listing any allegations that had been made against coaches working there.

"We are potentially setting families up for a fall with them not having the knowledge and the power to make those decisions," she said.

After the Whyte Review was released, British Gymnastics' chief executive Sarah Powell, who has been in the post since October, said the organisation "accepts all of the recommendations and key findings. We will not shy away from doing what is needed".

"I want to wholeheartedly apologise to the gymnasts who have suffered as a result of us not working to the standards we set ourselves. We are sorry."

She added: "Let me be clear; there is no place for abuse of any kind in our sport and coaching standards of the past will not be those of the future.

"We will build a new culture and ensure the gymnast's voice is at the heart of all we do. We will change gymnastics for the better."

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