British Gymnastics has announced the launch of an independent review into allegations of abuse in the sport.
The review will be conducted by Jane Mulcahy QC, who has worked at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and sits on the England and Wales Cricket Board Appeals Panel in child protection cases.
British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen said: “The behaviours we have heard about in recent days are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching and have no place in our sport.”
A number of former athletes, including Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lisa Mason, have publicly accused coaches of bullying and mistreating athletes, while a former welfare officer alleged the governing body enabled a “culture of fear”.
Allen added in the statement: “The British Gymnastics Integrity Unit is set up to investigate all allegations when reported or identified by our national network of club and regional Welfare Officers.
“However, it is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns to British Gymnastics and it is vital that an Independent Review helps us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible.
“There is nothing more important for British Gymnastics than the welfare of our gymnasts at every level of our sport and we will continually strive to create a culture where people feel they can raise any concerns that they may have.”
Lisa Mason has publicly accused coaches of bullying and mistreating athletes (Peter Byrne/PA)
UK Sport described allegations of abuse in British Gymnastics as “shocking and upsetting” and vowed to work hard to establish the facts before deciding on an “appropriate response”.
The funding body, which has poured £16,457,953 in the sport during the current Olympic cycle, added its voice to the British Athletes Commission which said it was “deeply troubled” by the claims.
Catherine Lyons, a former junior and British champion, also publicly accused coaches of having bullied and mistreated athletes.
A UK Sport spokesperson said: “These allegations relating to the treatment of young athletes within gymnastics are shocking and upsetting.
Catherine Lyons also spoke publicly about the allegations (Nigel French/PA)
“There is absolutely no place for any sort of bullying or abuse in sport and anyone responsible for such behaviour must be held accountable, with support offered to those affected.”
The spokesperson added: “The integrity of the high performance system is paramount and so we are quickly but thoroughly working to establish the facts with British Gymnastics before deciding on the appropriate response.”
British Gymnastics has not commented specifically on the claims but said it “condemns any behaviour” which is harmful to gymnasts and promised to examine specific complaints with a view to taking appropriate action.
The BAC, established in 2004 as an independent membership organisation to represent the interests of high-performance athletes in Great Britain, said no athlete should endure abuse.
“We are deeply troubled to hear the comments made by some British athletes relating to culture and welfare issues within British Gymnastics,” read a BAC statement.
“No athlete should be expected to tolerate an abuse of power or poor practice.
“The performance environment should be a place of mutual trust and respect where athletes are supported in achieving their best.
“The BAC is worried to hear of athlete experiences which appear not to reflect these standards and would urge that any allegations are investigated thoroughly.”
The BAC currently helps around 1,200 members from across 40 sports.
Its statement continued: “The BAC supports any athlete that does not receive the appropriate duty of care.
“We urge any of our members, who may have safeguarding or welfare concerns, to contact us so we can provide independent, confidential advice and support if required.”
– Updated with further information at 6.42pm.