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'Too little, too late' after damning report reveals abuse culture in UK sport

An independent report revealed 'systemic' abuse within British gymnastics.

The UK Gymnastics Federation and its coaches have reportedly abused young gymnasts by starving them and making them hang from the rings in punishment.

A new report by the Whyte Review, which examined over 400 complaints, uncovered an "unacceptable culture" that has left many young people humiliated, shamed and permanently psychologically or physically damaged by their time in the sport.

"I have concluded that gymnasts' well-being and welfare has not been at the center of (governing body British Gymnastics') culture for much of the period of the review," wrote lawyer Anne Whyte.

Despite an apology by the new British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell, many people who have suffered from inhumane behavior in gymnastics believed that they did not think there would be much change in the structure of the federation.

Gymnasts for Change, which represents many of the athletes who have made allegations of abuse, said while it welcomed the review, "ultimately, the recommendations fall far short of what is needed".

"This is too little, too late to change a culture of mistreatment. Every day without holistic and wholesale change another gymnast is put at risk and these recommendations fall far short of the change needed."

Whyte hit out at past management failures, saying that UK sport was more concerned with winning medals in competitions than with the well-being of its athletes.

“The ungenerous interpretation is that the mission process was window dressing for those sports, like gymnastics, where medals were realistically anticipated and that the medals mattered more than amber ratings and more than athlete welfare,” she said.

According to Whyte’s report, in total more than 40% described physically abusive behavior towards gymnasts by coaches. 

The report shows some gymnasts are forced to hang from the hoops for long periods of time due to being late for the gym or some others are forced to continue training or competing despite injuries.

There was also a case where a young athlete was forced to stay on the balance stick for two hours to maintain his balance.

Michelle North, head of the NSPCC’s child protection in sport unit, was also critical of the sport, calling the report "extremely disturbing and completely unacceptable.”

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