Strengthening the protection of whistleblowers and witnesses is a priority for the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) and forms part of its new strategy framework Gymnasts 2028, launched earlier this year. In this context and for internal use, the Foundation recently published a set of new guidelines on special measures for protecting vulnerable witnesses, which may also be useful for other organisations working in safeguarding.
The guidelines outline a list of specific measures that can be taken during disciplinary proceedings to protect whistleblowers and witnesses while also ensuring that due process rights of all parties are respected. Therefore, the guidelines serve as a tool providing guidance to the Panel as to which specific measures may be taken to protect vulnerable individuals during disciplinary proceedings.
Alex McLin, Director of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation, explained:
“It takes a lot of courage to come forward and submit a report or to provide testimony during hearings, especially in cases where individuals have suffered maltreatment. Just the process of submitting a complaint may be triggering. These risks are further increased if a case advances to disciplinary proceedings, where hearings typically involve live witness testimony and cross-examination. Special measures can help to protect witnesses and reduce the risk of reliving traumatic experiences, thereby mitigating rather than compounding suffering.”
The guidelines complement Art. 18 of the FIG Code of Discipline, which provides for “special measures” in “exceptional circumstances” during disciplinary proceedings, by detailing what such measures may include. The guidelines also provide clear definitions of a “participant at risk”, a “vulnerable witness”, and a “trauma-informed approach”.
Alex McLin added:
“In drafting the guidelines, we were driven by the testimonies of survivors and witnesses in cases involving gymnastics and other sports, and, more generally, by calls from the global sports community to implement a trauma-informed approach when investigating and adjudicating cases.”
Regarding the Foundation’s strategic framework Gymnasts 2028, the new guidelines address both the activity pillars of harm prevention activity and discipline and adjudication.
Read the Internal Guidelines on special measures for protecting vulnerable witnesses: