Review launched of Australia gymnastics after abuse claims

SYDNEY: An independent review of Australian gymnastics was announced Thursday after a host of former athletes went public with accounts of physical, mental and emotional abuse in the sport.

The probe will be carried out by the country’s Human Rights Commission, which will look into the culture and practices of the sport at the request of governing body Gymnastics Australia (GA).

“Over the last couple of weeks athletes have shared their personal experiences of gymnastics in Australia,” said GA chief Kitty Chiller, who was Australia’s chef de mission at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Many of those experiences are quite simply not acceptable. They reinforce the need for more to be done to change the culture of gymnastics, so that our sport can be trusted, respected and celebrated.”

While none of the allegations involved sexual impropriety, they detailed body-shaming, neglect and manipulation and “a culture of fear created by people in power”.

Their disclosure earlier this month followed the recent release of American documentary “Athlete A”, which looks at investigations carried out into USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was jailed for life in 2018 after abusing more than 250 athletes.

Chiller said the Australian review would “build an understanding of the culture of gymnastics in Australia and any barriers there may be in reporting behaviours that go against what we stand for – zero tolerance of any form of abuse”.

The commission will set up a series of listening and focus groups for athletes, past and present, seek written submissions and conduct interviews with key figures.

It will also look into policies and practices relating to the safety and well-being of gymnasts, reporting its findings in the first quarter of next year.

The Australian Olympic Committee welcomed the move, applauding GA for its “positive and constructive approach”.

“Committing to an independent review of policies, practices and governance structures sends a strong signal to the gymnastics community and indeed the broader sporting community of their commitment,” said chief executive Matt Carroll.