Athletes unhappy at British Gymnastics’ slow response to abuse allegations

Athletes who have made allegations of physical and psychological abuse against British Gymnastics have been told to wait until December for a response to legal claims put to the organisation a month ago.

A group of 17 former elite gymnasts, including three Olympians, who are pursuing legal action said they were “disappointed but not surprised” that the governing body had failed to reply to a “Letter of Claim” sent on 25 February and said that every day of further delay risks “serious harms” to those still in the sport.

British Gymnastics has asked for an extension until 19 December 2021 to reply to the letter and address its concerns, according to the law firm representing the athletes. In response the gymnasts have said they wish to receive a “substantive” reply before 19 June, after which point they will pursue court proceedings.

“We’re disappointed but not surprised that British Gymnastics have failed to meet the reasonable deadline we set,” a spokesperson for the group said. “As such they have missed a valuable opportunity to address the 17 cases of harm put to them and to commit to working with gymnasts and former gymnasts to reforming the sport through an alternative dispute resolution.

“British Gymnastics are presiding over a broken system and their attempts to long-grass our claims are indicative of that fact. Every day that they delay, former gymnasts are denied the justice they so richly deserve – and current gymnasts are at risk of similar serious harms.

“We’re very clear in our determination that if British Gymnastics do not put their full organisational weight behind addressing our case, then we will take the opportunity for British Gymnastics to be part of reforming the sport we love out of their hands and into the courts.”

The group says that since initiating proceedings last summer a further 20 gymnasts have come forward with allegations. Those raised in the letter include “inappropriate use of physical force by coaches against gymnasts constituting physical assault”.

The gymnasts also allege “psychological abuse” including “inappropriate and baseless weight management techniques”, which it is alleged caused eating disorders and “body dysmorphia”.