Group of 17 former gymnasts sue crisis-hit British Gymnastics for ‘decades of systemic abuse’ including allegations of gaslighting, body shaming and bullying
- The alleged victims are suing for ‘negligence and breach of duty’
- They claim they were subjected to ‘persistent abuse’ by coaches that has caused them ‘serious and continuing psychological and physical damage’
- The claimants were allegedly abused between the ages of six and 23
A group of 17 former gymnasts have launched legal action against British Gymnastics in a move which threatens to be the most damaging blow yet to the crisis-hit governing body.
The alleged victims, who are all female and include three Olympians, are suing for ‘negligence and breach of duty’ on the grounds that they were subjected to ‘persistent abuse’ by coaches that has caused them ‘serious and continuing psychological and physical damage’.
A 26-page letter of claim seen by Sportsmail has now been served on British Gymnastics by law firm Hausfeld and Co LLP, with the ex-athletes seeking compensation which could financially cripple the organisation.
The group includes Jennifer Pinches, who represented Team GB at London 2012
One of the claimants, Jennifer Pinches, who represented Team GB at London 2012, said: ‘For too long we have seen British Gymnastics prioritise podiums over people which has led to untold damage to the lives of young people.
‘It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to.
‘This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.’
The gymnasts’ allegations include ‘widespread inappropriate use of physical force’, ‘widespread bullying and intimidating behaviour’, ‘gaslighting’ and ‘inappropriate weight management techniques which is alleged to have caused eating disorders’.
They are seeking damages for any psychiatric or physical injury caused, any provisional damages for ongoing injuries and any special losses arising from the ‘defendants’ tortious actions’.
Two-time Olympian Hannah Whelan wants shortcomings of governing body to be addressed
The claimants are aged between 15 and 43 and were allegedly abused between the ages of six and 23.
Hannah Whelan, the 2008 and 2012 Olympian, said: ‘It is vital that we get recognition of the shortcomings of British Gymnastics and support for the people who have been affected in order to come together to create the change needed.’
Claire Heafford, ex-elite gymnast and director of campaign group Gymnasts for Change, added: ‘This is a landmark moment in our campaign for justice. This is about decades of systemic abuse, encouraged and covered up by those at the top.’
The testimonies of several gymnasts last summer led to UK Sport and Sport England co-commissioning the Whyte Review to investigate allegations of mistreatment within the sport.
Gymnasts submitted evidence to the Whyte Review, which will publish its findings in the summer, but this legal battle promises to be more significant.
‘We are proud to represent this group of courageous women advancing claims against British Gymnastics.
‘No legal action can turn the clock back for those who have suffered harm, however, through this action we hope to assist the claimants in bringing their voices together to gain redress at a personal level, and drive long-lasting change at the heart of British Gymnastics.
‘Any sporting culture which normalises body-shaming amongst young children and fails to prioritise the physical and psychological well-being of those involved must be held to account.’
British Gymnastics were approached for comment.
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