UK Sport has described allegations of abuse in British Gymnastics as “shocking and upsetting” and vowed to work hard to establish the facts before deciding on an “appropriate response”.
The funding body, which has poured £16,457,953 in the sport during the current Olympic cycle, added its voice to the British Athletes Commission which said it was “deeply troubled” by the claims.
Catherine Lyons, a former junior and British champion, and Lisa Mason, an Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, have publicly accused coaches of having bullied and mistreated athletes.
A UK Sport spokesperson said: “These allegations relating to the treatment of young athletes within gymnastics are shocking and upsetting.
“There is absolutely no place for any sort of bullying or abuse in sport and anyone responsible for such behaviour must be held accountable, with support offered to those affected.”
The spokesperson added: “The integrity of the high performance system is paramount and so we are quickly but thoroughly working to establish the facts with British Gymnastics before deciding on the appropriate response.”
British Gymnastics has not commented specifically on the claims but said it “condemns any behaviour” which is harmful to gymnasts and promised to examine specific complaints with a view to taking appropriate action.
To end the day I just want to say a massive thank you to @stevescott_itv and @dsj_itv for their support and help in sharing my story. I really do hope it will open the door for reform and change in British Gymnastics.
— Catherine Lyons (@CatherineLyonsx) July 6, 2020
The BAC, established in 2004 as an independent membership organisation to represent the interests of high-performance athletes in Great Britain, said no athlete should endure abuse.
“We are deeply troubled to hear the comments made by some British athletes relating to culture and welfare issues within British Gymnastics,” read a BAC statement.
“No athlete should be expected to tolerate an abuse of power or poor practice.
“The performance environment should be a place of mutual trust and respect where athletes are supported in achieving their best.
“The BAC is worried to hear of athlete experiences which appear not to reflect these standards and would urge that any allegations are investigated thoroughly.”
In addition to the allegations made by Lyons and Mason, a former welfare officer alleged a “culture of fear” existed within British Gymnastics resulting in concerned coaches and parents being too scared to voice concerns.
The BAC currently helps around 1,200 members from across 40 sports.
Its statement continued: “The BAC supports any athlete that does not receive the appropriate duty of care.
“We urge any of our members, who may have safeguarding or welfare concerns, to contact us so we can provide independent, confidential advice and support if required.”
British Gymnastics promised to review individual claims, if gymnasts approach the organisation directly.
“We are aware of media reports which highlight a number of serious allegations within gymnastics,” read a statement.
We are aware of media reports this evening which highlight a number of serious allegations within gymnastics.
British Gymnastics is reaching out to any gymnast, either current or past, that has concerns around specific incidents or behaviours… (continued)
— British Gymnastics (@BritGymnastics) July 6, 2020
“British Gymnastics condemns any behaviour which is harmful to the well-being of our gymnasts. Such behaviours are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching.
“We have worked particularly hard in recent years to ensure that our athlete and coaching culture is transparent, fair and inclusive.
“British Gymnastics is reaching out to any gymnast, either current or past, that has concerns around specific incidents or behaviours and encourages them to contact our Integrity Unit
“This unit has the power to investigate any persons within British Gymnastics or its member clubs and take the appropriate action.
“There is nothing more important to us than the welfare of our participants and we continually strive to create a culture where people feel they can raise any concerns that they may have.”