Over the course of the summer, in 2020, a number of elite gymnasts and other gymnasts came forward, to complain about a range of inappropriate behaviour they had experienced from their coaches and gymnastics clubs. This led to an offer from British Gymnastics to conduct an enquiry. This was widely criticised as such an enquiry would not, in the eyes of the gymnasts, be independent. Therefore, an independent enquiry was set up under Anne Whyte QC, to investigate complaints in the sport of gymnastics.
Which gymnasts made complaints in 2020 and what did the gymnasts complain about?
This is a list of some of the complainants and their complaints:-
- Ellie Downie - she spoke of being made to feel “ashamed” of her weight. She also spoke of other female gymnasts who “descend into eating disorders and mental health problems”.
- Louis Smith - he spoke of a culture of fear. He said, “when you’re young, sometimes that approach from a coach blurs the lines between a coach who is a hard but good coach (and) a coach being too pushy, abusive, not understanding”.
- Amy Tinkler - she retired from the sport due to her “experiences”.
- Emily Marsden - a teammate of Amy Tinkler recalls that after Amy left the gym Emily was told to “have nothing to do with her”.
- Roxanne Jennison - she was made to feel ashamed of her weight.
- Sophie Jameson
- Olivia Williams
- Abbie Caig
- Georgina Clements
- Amber Leyland
- Charlie Fellows – she was told that she was “too heavy” to train
- Nile Wilson - he said athletes were “treated like pieces of meat……. We are made to feel fear, or scared of speaking out, voicing our concerns, because they have us, our livelihoods, in their hands”.
- Christian Cox - he said that his intense training “pushed (him) to (his) limits”. He went on to say, “I want to run outside the gym and kill myself”.
- Claire Heafford - her experience was of “belittling, humiliating…… ongoing disappointment”
- Mimi Cesar - she was told that she was “not good enough, your thighs are disgusting……. Your thighs are horrible”.
- Paige Southern-Reason - “they (the coaches) pushed us harder and harder”
- Dan Keatings - he complained of “bullying and manipulation”. He states that he was repeatedly called “fat” during training.
Who set up the Whyte Review?
In 2020 a number of gymnasts and their parents made allegations about mistreatment in the sport of gymnastics. Concerns were also alleged that British Gymnastics had failed to deal appropriately with complaints. In response to the complaints from gymnasts, UK Sport and Sport England appointed Anne Whyte QC to undertake an independent review. This independent review was announced on the 25 August 2020.
Who is Whyte?
Anne Whyte QC is a barrister with experience in both criminal and civil legal actions, “as well as non-recent and institutional forms of abuse, both physical and sexual”. In September 2020 she said that she has no connection with British Gymnastics or the sport of gymnastics.
She is assisted by two advisers, Mike Cave, the Academy Manager at Fulham Football Club and Tonya Couch, a former British Diver, who competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
The team are supported by an independent secretariat, to assist with the day-to-day management and running of the review.
What is the Whyte Review looking at?
The purpose of the Review (Terms of Reference) is co-
To determine whether:
- gymnasts’ wellbeing and welfare is (and has been) at the centre of the culture of British Gymnastics, its registered clubs and member coaches and if not, why not;
- safeguarding concerns and complaints have been dealt with appropriately in the sport of gymnastics and if not, why not; and,
- gymnasts, or their parents, carers or guardians, have felt unable to raise complaints with appropriate authorities and if so, why.
Is there a time limit on the complaints in the sport of gymnastics?
The Review will investigate complaints between August 2008 and August 2020.
When do complaints have to be made, to be considered by the Whyte Review?
The call for evidence (complaints) from gymnasts, their parents and others was initially due to close on the 25 September 2020, but was extended to 9 October 2020.
The opportunity to submit a complaint to the Whyte Review has now closed although gymnasts, parents and others can still make complaints to individual gymnastics clubs and their governing body, British Gymnastics.
How many complaints have been received by the Whyte Review?
In October 2020 Anne Whyte QC reported that more than 350 people have provided information to the Review.
What is the Whyte Review likely to say?
If the Review identifies failings in respect of the three issues identified above, recommendations will be made to ensure that for the future:-
- gymnasts’ wellbeing and welfare is at the centre of the culture of British Gymnastics;
- safeguarding concerns and complaints in the sport of gymnastics are raised with the appropriate authority and appropriately resolved in a timely manner; and,
- gymnasts have appropriate pathways and the necessary support to raise concerns and complaints.
Will there be a report?
Once the evidence from gymnasts, parents and others has been reviewed an interim report will be delivered to UK Sport and Sport England, setting out the nature and scope of the information that has been received. The Review may wish to propose amendments to the Terms of Reference for the remainder of the review.
A second report will be prepared at the conclusion of the review, which will set out recommendations.
When will the report be delivered?
There is no determined timetable as to when either an interim report or final report will be delivered, except that Anne Whyte QC has stated that she will provide her final report “as soon as reasonably practicable”.
In October 2020 Anne Whyte QC said that it would take her team a couple of months to speak to everyone (in respect of information people have provided).
What should I do if I have suffered abuse from my gymnastics coach?
Although the opportunity to complain to the Whyte Review has now passed, it is still possible to make a complaint to the individual gymnastics clubs and to British Gymnastics. We specialise in acting for individuals who have suffered sexual and physical abuse and therefore if you are a victim survivor of gymnastics abuse, whether gymnastics sexual abuse or gymnastics physical abuse, we may be able to help you.
If you are considering a compensation claim for gymnastics abuse, we provide a free initial consultation to discuss the background and advise whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed with a claim. Contact us today to discuss your case in a safe and supportive environment. We offer a no win, no fee agreement so there is no financial risk involved if you are not successful. To make an appointment please contact us on 03331239099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org