Former and current British gymnasts have come forward with claims of abuse within the Team GB coaching staff, and alleged systemic abuse that exists within the sport more widely in the UK.
In a report by ITV News that aired on Monday, former elite gymnast Catherine Lyons claimed she was abused by her coach — both physically and emotionally — for years, until she eventually exited the sport at 15-years-old. “I had counselling for a year and a half and was diagnosed by a top child psychiatrist from a primary hospital with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Lyons told ITV News. Her claims include being physically hit, being locked in a store cupboard on her own as a child, being forced to train and compete while injured, and being pushed to the point of starving from as young as 10-years-old.
And Lyons isn’t the only former gymnast to speak out about alleged abuse. Former Olympian and Commonwealth gold medallist Lisa Mason says she has personally received messages from former and current gymnasts who were treated similarly to her and Lyons. “A couple have said to me that they want to be more vocal, but they’re concerned about their position,” Mason told ITV News. “And, like I said, we all know why . . . the Olympics is next year, and we don’t want to rock the boat and upset the people who make those decisions.” She also explained that training and competing through injury was very common, even if it meant taking regular prescription pain medication to get through a training session, from as young as 12-years-old.
A former welfare officer told Sky News that “a ‘culture of fear’ existed within the organisation where concerned coaches and parents were too scared to voice their concerns.” Multiple gymnasts — both former athletes and current competitors — have reported intense and horrific body shaming and gaslighting over serious injuries that have now developed into long-term issues.
Culture and Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden MP has responded to the allegations, saying that it is heartbreaking to hear about and that it must be investigated. British gymnastics has responded to the claims in the ITV News segment, saying they condemn “any behaviour that is harmful to the wellbeing of our gymnasts. Such behaviours are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching.” The organisation has also urged gymnasts (past and present) to contact their integrity unit. The claims come shortly after the release of Netflix’s new documentary Athlete A, which exposes the deeply ingrained and insidious abuse that took place over many years in the Team USA gymnastics camp.
ITV News: Stars Allege Abuse at Heart of British Gymnastics