Becky Downie feels ‘vindicated’ after shocking abuse in British Gymnastics was exposed

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Becky Downie feels ‘vindicated’ after shocking abuse in British Gymnastics was exposed


British gymnast Becky Downie says she feels ‘vindicated’ after the shocking culture of physical and emotional abuse within the sport was laid bare in a damning report on Thursday.

The Whyte Review has exposed incidents of children as young as seven being sat on, spat at and slapped by coaches, gaslighted, fat shamed and refused access to food and the toilet, leading to eating disorders and mental health issues.

Downie, a medallist for Team GB at both the World and European championships, released a statement on Twitter in which she said that her and other people who have talked about abuse within the sport ‘have finally been heard’.

She said:  ‘I didn’t want to respond until I’d had adequate time to read and properly digest everything in yesterday’s announcement.

’24 hours later my overwhelming feeling is: we’ve finally been heard.

‘It feels like a vindication for myself and so many who have known for so long of the serious cultural problems within the sport. A sport I love more than anything.

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British gymnast Becky Downie says she feels ‘vindicated’ after the Whyte report, published on Thursday, detailed the shocking physical and emotional abuse in British Gymnastics

Downie posted this statement on her Twitter in which she said people 'finally know the truth'

Downie posted this statement on her Twitter in which she said people ‘finally know the truth’

‘Finally everyone knows the truth and while it won’t directly benefit those who have experienced it, it’s encouraging to know that if the recommendations are implemented, it’ll protect and enhance the next generation of athletes.’

Anne Whyte QC’s landmark 306-page report also said the ‘cash for medals’ culture within British Olympic sport may have contributed to the gymnastics scandal and called for an overhaul of the system.

UK Sport and Sport England – who co-commissioned the £3million independent investigation in 2020 – described the gymnasts’ testimonies as ‘harrowing and distressing’ and apologised.

However, they have refused to strip British Gymnastics of public funding for now, despite the report accusing the governing body of a ‘collective failure’ and prioritising performance over athlete welfare.

A shocking culture of physical and emotional abuse within gymnastics has been laid bare in the most damning report to ever be published about a British Olympic sport

A shocking culture of physical and emotional abuse within gymnastics has been laid bare in the most damning report to ever be published about a British Olympic sport 

The Whyte Review has exposed incidents of children as young as seven being sat on, spat at and slapped by coaches, gaslighted, fat shamed and refused access to food and the toilet

The Whyte Review has exposed incidents of children as young as seven being sat on, spat at and slapped by coaches, gaslighted, fat shamed and refused access to food and the toilet 

New British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell issued her own apology but she could not confirm whether any of the anonymous coaches accused of abuse in the report still worked for her organisation.

The Whyte Review received evidence from more than 400 people, with 40 per cent describing physical abuse and 50 per cent reporting emotional abuse. Allegations of sexual abuse also featured in 30 submissions.

Downie in her statement said that she has seen a ‘drastic change’ in the approach of top level gymnastics, and that she is ‘encouraged’ for the future of young gymnasts in the country.

She said: ‘Already this year I’ve seen a drastic change in the approach of top level gymnastics in this country. There’s a unity amongst everyone and a genuine desire to allow athlete-led programmes in conjunction with coaches.

‘It can only benefit everyone if athletes and coaches both have voices. 

‘To be clear, athletes are no longer weighed within the national environment unless for very specific growth monitoring or medical reasons, and adequate food and drink intake are also actively encouraged.

‘While it’ll never make what has been allowed to happen to myself and so many others ok, it has been made clear us athletes have been heard, and I’m overwhelmingly encouraged for the future of young gymnasts in this country.

Downie said she is now encouraged for the future of young gymnasts in the country

Downie said she is now encouraged for the future of young gymnasts in the country

‘I can’t thank Anne Whyte and her team enough for hearing us and giving our voices back.’ 

The Whyte report found:

  • A seven-year-old girl was sat on by her coach while being forced to extend a stretch.
  • An elite gymnast was made to stand on a beam for two hours because she was scared to try a new skill, while others were left on equipment crying, bleeding or injured.
  • One athlete was told to climb a rope after she asked for a toilet break.
  • Coaches slapped gymnasts if they did not stand to attention and screamed in their face to the point they felt their spit.
  • Children who cried were made to watch themselves in a mirror or wear a dunce’s cap.
  • Gymnasts would be deprived of water and food, forcing them to hide it in their socks, knickers, the lining of their suitcases and ceiling tiles

Responding to the report, UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday denied the ‘cash for medals’ notion.

But she said: ‘We welcome today’s report and accept and endorse all of its recommendations.

New British Gymnastics CEO Sarah Powell issued her own apology but she could not confirm whether any of the anonymous coaches accused of abuse still worked for her organisation

New British Gymnastics CEO Sarah Powell issued her own apology but she could not confirm whether any of the anonymous coaches accused of abuse still worked for her organisation

‘The gymnasts’ experiences shared in this review are harrowing and distressing to read. We want to publicly acknowledge and thank all those courageous in coming forward.

‘As the report found, the assurance systems in place did not identify, until relatively recently, long-standing cultural problems in gymnastics. For this we are sorry.’

British Gymnastics chief executive Powell said: ‘To read the recollection of these individuals who’ve had such a poor experience of the sport, which has clearly affected them and they’ve suffered because of it, is not acceptable. It’s emotional for me, I’m a mum and sport is not supposed to do this.

‘I had to speak to gymnasts this morning – and it was hard. I looked them in the eye and said sorry.’

Powell was appointed at British Gymnastics last June, replacing Jane Allen (pic), who resigned in 2020 with a severance package despite being CEO for 10 years – the time of the scandal

Powell was appointed at British Gymnastics last June, replacing Jane Allen (pic), who resigned in 2020 with a severance package despite being CEO for 10 years – the time of the scandal 

Powell was appointed at British Gymnastics last June, replacing Jane Allen, who controversially resigned in 2020 with a severance package despite being chief executive for 10 years – the time of the scandal.

‘All I can hope I think this is a watershed movement not just for gymnastics but safeguarding in all sports,’ added Powell.

In a statement, Allen said: ‘It’s been very hard to hear the painful experiences shared by people in a sport that I’ve been dedicated to for many years.

‘I’m deeply sorry I didn’t do more for everyone — especially the athletes — to feel supported, able to speak up and heard. This was under my leadership and it should have been different.’



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