British Gymnastics has taken a significant step towards eliminating systemic abuse by banning coaches from weighing athletes. The move comes after the Whyte Review exposed evidence of physical and emotional abuse within the sport. In an effort to rectify the failings identified in the report, British Gymnastics has introduced a series of new rules aimed at safeguarding the welfare of gymnasts.
Under the new regulations, the weighing of gymnasts must be their choice and can only be conducted by qualified sport science or medical practitioners. Coaches are now explicitly prohibited from weighing their athletes. For gymnasts between the ages of 10 and 18, weighing can only occur with the consent of both themselves and their parent or guardian. These measures aim to empower gymnasts and ensure that their physical and mental wellbeing is prioritized.
In addition to the ban on coaches weighing athletes, British Gymnastics has implemented further policies to protect gymnasts. It is now mandatory for gymnasts to be provided with regular opportunities to drink and have bathroom breaks during training sessions or activities. This provision acknowledges the importance of proper hydration and recognizes the basic needs of gymnasts. Furthermore, the new rules dictate that the absence of formal education for gymnastics club training should never be a mandatory requirement for any child. This change ensures that young athletes receive the education they deserve while pursuing their gymnastics dreams.
The introduction of these new rules aims to prevent inappropriate practices that can lead to psychological distress and the development of mental health problems such as eating disorders, disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. British Gymnastics acknowledges that excessive weighing of gymnasts is an example of poor practice that can border on abuse. By addressing this issue proactively, the organization hopes to foster a healthier and safer environment for all gymnasts.
British Gymnastics is committed to prioritizing the welfare of gymnasts above all else. The implementation of these new policies is a significant step towards eradicating poor practices and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of athletes. Clarity is crucial in promoting a positive gymnastics culture, and these rules provide guidance for gymnasts, parents and carers, coaches, clubs, volunteers, and officials. By establishing clear boundaries, British Gymnastics aims to prevent any future instances of abuse.
Gymnasts For Change, a group of current and former athletes dedicated to driving change within the sport, has welcomed the new policies. However, they emphasize that meaningful change cannot occur without a robust welfare, investigation, and complaints system. They raise concerns that British Gymnastics has yet to sanction coaches for clear cases of abuse and guideline violations through their own independent complaints process. As a result, they question the organization’s ability to effectively enforce the newly implemented policies.
While the Whyte Review exposed 30 sexual abuse allegations, the majority of complaints centered around physical and emotional abuse. These findings shed light on the need for comprehensive safeguards in the sport. As the revelations in the Netflix documentary Athlete A highlighted, gymnastics has faced significant challenges worldwide in terms of creating a safe and nurturing environment for athletes. By actively addressing these issues, British Gymnastics is taking a step forward in creating a more secure future for gymnasts.
British Gymnastics’ decisive action to ban coaches from weighing athletes is an essential measure in eradicating systemic abuse within the sport. The introduction of new rules, along with a commitment to prioritize the welfare of gymnasts, signals a significant shift towards a safer and more inclusive gymnastics community. While challenges remain, it is encouraging to see the sport take tangible steps to address past failings and create a brighter future for gymnasts.