The Whyte Report has detailed several examples of abuses ©Getty Images

British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell has apologised to the gymnasts and their families after the Whyte Report today laid bare the extent of the shocking level of abuse the organisation presided over.

The review, which was completed by Barrister Anne Whyte and cost UK Sport and Sport England £3 million ($3.6 million/€3.5 million), found athletes of all ages suffered various degrees of emotional, physical or sexual harm between August 2008 and August 2020.

The level of reported abuse detailed ranges from coaches telling gymnasts they would "put their size nine feet up our arse" if they failed to perform to the coach’s standard to coaches calling gymnasts "retard", "stupid" or "chicken."

The in-depth 306-page report concluded that gymnast wellbeing and welfare has not been "at the centre" of the National Federation’s culture during the review period and gymnasts were fearful of speaking out against coaching methods.

"I want to wholeheartedly apologise to the gymnasts who have suffered as a result of us not working to the standards we set ourselves," Powell said.

"We are sorry."

She continued: "We know we will be judged by our actions, not our words, I am fully committed to working with our leadership team and Board to deliver the reform needed.

"I recognise that we will not be able to do this alone and I look forward to working with gymnasts, stakeholders and our community to deliver positive change.

"Let me be clear; there is no place for abuse of any kind in our sport and coaching standards of the past will not be those of the future.

"We will build a new culture and ensure the gymnasts voice is at the heart of all we do.

"We will change gymnastics for the better."

The Whyte Report concluded gymnast wellbeing was not at the centre of priority ©Getty Images
The Whyte Report concluded gymnast wellbeing was not at the centre of priority ©Getty Images

An excess of 400 submissions were made in total from the grassroots level and above with an excess of 50 per cent reporting emotional abuse and more than 40 per cent alleging physical abuse.

Thirty submissions also claimed to have suffered sexual abuse, though Whyte believed this was not "systematic or condoned" and were taken more seriously in comparison to physical and emotional abuse.

Whyte noted the participants were potentially vulnerable to inappropriate behaviour as 75 per cent of British Gymnastics members have been usually under 12 in the past 12 years.

Whyte found reports of gaslighting, emotional punishment, suppressing the opinions and emotions of athletes, while excessive controlling behaviour and excessive weight management were also cited as types of emotional abuse.

A gymnast recalled they were sworn at regularly from the age of nine.

Physical abuse ranged from inappropriate training while injured, enforcing training hours, overstretching and strict control over toilet breaks.

Whyte called the excessive coach-led weight management of athletes "the tyranny of the scales" and labelled it "quite unnecessary".

One former elite gymnast explained that was she forced to stand on the beam for two hours as she was scared to attempt a certain skill while there was more than one respondent who described being strapped to the bars for extended periods of time, leaving the athlete in great distress on occasions.

The respondent added athletes older than 11 would train up to 25 hours a week once they were on the Olympic pathway.

Whyte was also told by a former gymnast turned coach that they knew of girls aged as young as nine training for 30 hours per week.

One athlete said that "over stretching was just part of the training" and their coach would use their whole-body weight to "in order to stretch us in splits or stretch our knees."

One respondent claimed they were strapped to the bars for long periods of time ©Getty Images
One respondent claimed they were strapped to the bars for long periods of time ©Getty Images

Another individual alleged a coach sat on her when she seven-years-old and a parent detailed that two coaches pushed their child’s legs down into a split.

Gymnasts of varying ages said they would be required to climb the rope for needing a lavatory break or exceeding the amount of time given for a break.

A former Olympian alleged they were given just three minutes to go to the toilet during training and they would receive a punishment, such as extra conditioning, if they exceeded it.

It was also found that there was a strong correlation between withholding of food, water and access to the toilet and statements of long-term negative consequences.

In some cases, physical pain was directly inflicted on gymnasts because coaches were frustrated with the effort or achievement the athletes were showing.

Tim Hollingsworth and Sally Munday, the chief executives of Sport England and UK Sport respectively, said in a joint-statement that they "welcome today’s report and endorse all its recommendations."

"Gymnast experiences shared in this review are harrowing and distressing to read," they said.

"No one in sport should ever be subject to such abuse.

"We want to publicly acknowledge and thank all of those who were courageous in coming forward.

"Your voices are heard.

A former Olympian experienced strict rules for using the toilet ©Getty Images
A former Olympian experienced strict rules for using the toilet ©Getty Images

"You played a vital part in shaping the future of gymnastics in Britain, making it safe and inclusive for future generations to come.

"We believe that every gymnast should have a positive experience of this sport.

"Culture and welfare within a sport must be led and championed by the governing body, with the full support of everyone involved in the sport, from coaches, administrators and volunteers to parents and participants.

"Duty of care and participants are the responsibility of the national governing body.

"British Gymnastics clearly fell short of this."

A total of 17 recommendations have been made calling on the governing body to improve its safeguarding and welfare, complaints handling, standards and education, and governance.

Particular focus has been given to reforming the complaints process to ensure it is fit for purpose, to ensure employed coaches are independently investigated and decisions are determined by an independent panel when it is relevant.

Whyte has also called for independent Board members to be appointed who have professional expertise in safeguarding and athlete welfare, to revise and update its education programme for welfare officers and coaches as well as revise and update its mandatory safeguarding courses so that they are more relevant to gymnastics.

The chief executives of British Gymnastics, UK Sport and Sport England all rejected the notion of "cash for medals" inciting the behaviour.

Munday also said it was a decision for the UK Government whether to implement an ombudsman, who is an official appointed to investigate complaints against organisations.

Former British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen stepped down from her role in October 2020 after 10 years in the position, though she denied at the time it was related to the abuse scandal.

Amanda Reddin has denied allegations of wrongdoing against her ©Getty Images
Amanda Reddin has denied allegations of wrongdoing against her ©Getty Images

Women’s gymnastics coach Amanda Reddin, who led Britain to their best Olympic performance of seven medals at Rio 2016, "mutually agreed" with the governing body to leave her role in May.

Rio 2016 bronze medallist Amy Tinkler remarked she was "terrified" of Reddin and described training as like a "prison."

Reddin has denied allegations of wrongdoing and was cleared of some accusations, though an independent investigation is continuing to look at "further historical complaints."

She missed Tokyo 2020 after temporarily stepping down while complaints against her were considered by an independent panel run by Sports Resolutions.

Gymnasts for Change, the campaigning group consisting of athletes and former athletes, told the PA News Agency the Whyte Review is "an unprecedented opportunity" to reform the sport prior to its publication.

Dozens of British gymnasts, which includes a number of Olympians, have launched separate legal action against British Gymnastics, alleging they suffered widespread physical and emotional abuse.

They accuse the federation of sustaining a "culture of body shaming" with teenage gymnasts forced to "starve themselves" to reach target weights and they would receive "punishment conditioning" or be required to wear a "fat suit" if they failed to hit the weight.

Eloise Jotischky, 19, has become the first person to win a civil case against British Gymnastics in relation to abuse she experienced in the sport.

She claimed that she was "physically exhausted" after the coach imposed inappropriate weight management techniques, which is said to have involved a diet of around 800 calories for a non-training day and an estimated 1,200 calories for a training day.

Britain won one gymnastics medal, a bronze, at Beijing 2008 before securing four medals at London 2012 and then their record haul in Brazil of two golds, two silvers and three bronzes.