Young gymnasts starved to death and had to be hung by rings as punishment, the report reveals

The Whyte Review has uncovered shocking reports of abuse (Image: Getty Images)

Gymnasts as young as seven were starved, hung on rings as punishment and denied toilet breaks as part of a “systemic” culture of physical and emotional abuse, an independent investigation has found.

The Whyte Review, commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England, has found British Gymnastics has enabled a toxic culture in a scathing 306-page review led by Anne Whyte QC and published on Thursday.

The report reveals coaches had publicly shamed young girls because of their weight – some were forced to hang from gym rings for long periods as punishment for being late for sessions.

Others were forced to balance on the beam for two hours as punishment for being too scared to attempt a skill, while some were prevented from going to the toilet and forbidden from drinking water while exercising drink.

“I have come to the conclusion that the welfare and welfare of the gymnasts was not the focus [British Gymnastics’] Culture for much of the period under review and until recently has not featured as prominently as it should have within the World Class programme,” wrote Whyte.

The harrowing review revealed a toxic culture of abuse (Picture: Getty)

The review uncovered horrific personal testimonies, including one from a seven-year-old with a trainer sitting on it and another who said they feared their legs would “collapse” during a process where they were pushed down to perform the splits, ” break”.

Gymnasts reported instances of being forced to wear a fool’s cap and being called a “crybaby” in front of their peers. One parent described how a complaint about their child being called a “faggot” on a daily basis was “dismissed as a joke” by the club’s welfare officer.

Whyte went on to describe a catalog of failings by the governing body, including its inability to deal with complaints efficiently, its disregard for athletes’ opinions and its reluctance to intervene on known weight management issues, which she described as ‘the tyranny of the Libra’.

She accused former chief executive Jane Allen of a “lack of leadership” and an “organizational failure… in recognizing the vital importance of athlete welfare.”

The review also criticized UK Sport for presiding over a culture where its own ‘mission process’ was ‘window dressing for those sports, like gymnastics, where medals were realistically expected and that the medals were more important… than the welfare of the athletes’ .

British Gymnastics and UK Sport both apologized, with Allen’s successor Sarah Powell saying: “I’m sorry – to her for what she went through, to her parents and everyone around her.”

Additional coverage from Press Association

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General Sports Young gymnasts starved to death and had to be hung by rings as punishment, the report reveals

Nate Jones

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