Following reports about allegations of a toxic culture and abusive practices within Canadian gymnastics, the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) has asked the Minister of Sport of Canada, The Honourable Pascale St-Onge, and the Director General of Sport Canada, Ms Vicki Walker, to take the necessary measures to ensure that the health and safety of gymnasts in the national sport system is the priority.
In a dedicated letter, the President of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation Micheline Calmy-Rey calls for a culture which is not anchored only in the quest for results, but also in a positive approach that ensures the well-being of each and every athlete. She also offers the Foundation’s support to address these complex issues where needed.
Mrs Calmy-Rey also urges the Canadian sports leaders to involve the voices of gymnasts who have experienced abuse within the sport setting, and to conduct a third-party inquiry:
“It is indeed this community that knows best the flaws of the current system, and it is their trust that must be restored. In this light, it seems logical to us that an independent investigation be conducted, and that these gymnasts (victims and survivors of abuse) also approve the members of the eventual committee(s) formed to conduct it, in order to ensure its success.”
Gymnastics Canada (GymCan) Board of Directors Chair Jeffrey Thomson has expressed to the GEF the full support of GymCan for an independent review ensuring inclusion of the athletes’ voice.
Gymnastics is a highly technical sport, requiring great physical and mental commitment of gymnasts at an early age, often in very challenging training conditions. However, each and every gymnast, regardless of whether they are practicing gymnastics at a local level or competing nationally or internationally, must be able to train in a safe environment, free of physical or psychological harassment or abuse. It is the responsibility not only of coaches but of all stakeholders to ensure the safety and well-being of gymnasts; abusive and negligent behaviour should never be tolerated.
The Foundation applauds and encourages all who find the courage to speak up against unacceptable practices. This is difficult, but so important to raise awareness and push all stakeholders to working together and finding solutions.
The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation is committed to strengthening safeguards at the international and national levels and will continue to follow the developments in Canada and other countries closely.