The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) is aware of the recent reports of abuse within British Gymnastics which have been widely reported by media, but also directly by athletes through their own communication channels. The recent allegations put forth by several gymnasts in Great Britain and elsewhere raise serious concerns about the existing culture of gymnastics. We are closely monitoring the recent developments and welcome the decision of British Gymnastics not to be affiliated with the independent review. This is an important condition for the process to be credible and to enable athletes to speak out.
Gymnastics is a highly technical sport, requiring great physical and mental commitment of gymnasts, 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 behavior should never be tolerated.
Under the applicable rules of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), National Federations are responsible for implementing policies and procedures for safeguarding and protecting participants from harassment and abuse. One role of the GEF is to ensure that National Federations comply with such rules. Whistleblowers may also report directly to the GEF when national systems are inadequate. The GEF seeks to build trust and add value to all members of the gymnastics community by offering more accountability and support. Since it was set up in 2019, it has dealt with 31 cases in the fields of safeguarding, disciplinary and compliance.
To the extent the GEF has been made aware of any issues associated with a coach or National Federation staff member that may pose a risk to other participants in gymnastics, it takes whatever measures are necessary to mitigate that risk, including informing those in a position to take preventative action. We encourage National Federations who have sanctioned coaches for inappropriate conduct to make us aware of this and likewise encourage National Federations to ensure relevant background checks are carried out before coaches are hired from abroad. The GEF has recommended to the FIG that international rules be adopted making it mandatory for National Federations to enquire with the GEF and/or the FIG prior to recruiting a coach from abroad.