Whyte Review recommendations ‘fall far short of what is needed’ – campaign group

·3-min read

British Gymnastics faces a huge task to restore trust and regain credibility after its shortcomings were laid bare in the damning 306-page Whyte Review that was published on Thursday.

Anne Whyte QC drew on over 400 testimonies to reveal shocking instances of abuse and systemic failures of governance, centred around the organisation’s prioritising of cash and success over athlete welfare.

Despite a “genuine apology” from the new British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell, those affected cast doubts on the ability of British Gymnastics to implement change and said the review did not go far enough.

The campaign group Gymnasts for Change, which represents many of the athletes who have made allegations against the governing body, said whilst it welcomed the review, “ultimately, the recommendations fall far short of what is needed”.

It added: “This is too little too late to change a culture of mistreatment. Every day without holistic and wholesale change another gymnast is put at risk and these recommendations fall far short of the change needed.”

Whyte revealed horrific personal testimonies, including over-stretching to the extent a gymnast feared their legs would “snap”, food and drink deprivation that led to eating disorders, and emotional abuse including ridiculing gymnasts who cried or needed the toilet.

Rio Olympic Games 2016 – Day Four
Becky and Ellie Downie are among those who have previously spoken out about bullying (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Whyte accused Powell’s predecessor Jane Allen, who retired last year, of a “lack of leadership” and presiding over an “organisational failure… to appreciate the central importance of athlete welfare”, and said both British Gymnastics and UK Sport focused on medal success rather than athlete welfare.

Among her recommendations, Whyte called on the governing body to ensure its complaints system is “fit for purpose” and urged it to appoint both board members with specific expertise in safeguarding and a director of education with overall responsibility for the education of coaches and welfare officers.

Powell said British Gymnastics accepted all the recommendations in the report and “will not shy away” from taking the steps required to restore confidence in both the governing body and the sport as a whole.

“This is a genuine apology, from the sport, from myself, from the leadership,” added Powell. “We have to set a new path, a new roadmap. Gymnastics will be different because of the bravery of the young people who spoke up.”

Four-time Olympic medallist Louis Smith said the governing body should be under no illusions that it has plenty of work ahead before it can rid itself of its association with a “culture of fear”.

Smith wrote on social media: “If you’re wondering if the culture of fear is gone in British gymnastics, then take a look to see how many active competing GB gymnasts publicly support the Whyte review.

“British gymnastics need to remember they don’t own anyone and having an opinion isn’t an attack!!”

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