(Paris) In the United States, Great Britain, Australia and now in Canada… The world of gymnastics has been shaken for several years by cascading revelations denouncing decades of physical and psychological violence in training and lifting the sailing on a “toxic culture”.
The case that has most upset gymnastics recently is undoubtedly the huge scandal Larry Nassar, named after the former doctor of the American team.
In 2018, this former osteopath and therapist was found guilty of sexually assaulting at least 265 top gymnasts and received cumulative sentences of at least 140 years in prison. Among his victims are several Olympic champions, including star Simone Biles.
Since this unprecedented case, gymnasts around the world have spoken out against abusive practices, exposing a “toxic culture” within their discipline.
The latest example to date, Canadian gymnasts sued their federation on Wednesday for having tolerated a climate of abuse and mistreatment for decades. The action comes just over a month after a group of more than 70 gymnasts released an open letter decrying a “toxic culture and abusive practices that persist in the world of gymnastics in Canada.”
In August 2020, New Zealand Gymnastics was experiencing a series of complaints of physical and psychological abuse that had long-term mental and physical consequences.
In February 2021, in Great Britain, 17 former gymnasts launched a legal action against their federation. In particular, they blamed their trainers for “an inappropriate and widespread use of physical force” and an “unjustified” application of weight control techniques.
In May of the same year, Australian gymnastics was targeted by a damning report on the practice of gymnastics over the past decades: bodies twisted excessively to make them flexible, sexual assaults, teenage girls humiliated , because always too big…
Shortly before, former gymnasts – men and women – from Greece had written to their country’s president, saying that they had also suffered abuse “akin to torture”.
In 2019, in the wake of the Nassar case, the International Federation (FIG) created a “Gymnastics Ethics Foundation”, an independent body responsible, among other things, for cases of abuse and assault.
Asked by AFP, the FIG explained that it had also “developed many initiatives” since 2018 to ensure the protection of gymnasts.
The body says it has notably strengthened its Code of Conduct and invited national federations to a major online conference in October 2020 “to share ideas and methods for creating a healthy training environment”.
The FIG has also developed an awareness campaign called the “10 Golden Rules of Gymnastics” and introduced “Protection Officers” at all international competitions.
The Federation also ensures that several coaches have been suspended or excluded for abusive practices in recent years.