The Australian Human Rights Commission has found evidence of emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the sport. Gymnastics Australia has apologized and promised to act upon all 12 recommendations from the inquiry.
An independent inquiry into Australian gymnastics published a report on Monday saying a “high-risk environment” contributed to widespread abuse, sexism, racism and authoritarian coaching practices within the sport.
The human rights organization received hundreds of submissions before delivering its final report, which investigated abuse after being commissioned to conduct an independent review by Gymnastics Australia in August 2020.
“While many athletes have had positive experiences and relationships with their coaches, there was a persistent use of ‘authoritarian’ or highly disciplinary coaching styles,” the commission’s report said.
“A focus on ‘winning-at-all-costs’ and an acceptance of negative and abusive coaching behaviors has resulted in the silencing of the athlete voice and an increased risk of abuse and harm with significant short and long term impacts to gymnasts,” it said.
The commission recommended an independent investigation into specific abuse allegations and a formal apology from gymnastics authorities, as well as stricter screening and a national register of coaches. It suggested a dozen steps in all.
“Today the Australian Human Rights Commission has released its report into gymnastics in Australia,” Gymnastics Australia tweeted.
“Gymnastics Australia unreservedly apologizes to all athletes and family members who have experienced any form of abuse participating in the sport.”
Gymnastics Australia promised to adopt all 12 recommendations from the Human Rights Commission.
Several countries investigate after Nassar case
A number of scandals in gymnastics around the world have been reported in recent years.
Former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar was found guilty of sexually assaulting at least 265 identified athletes over a period of two decades. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was among Nassar’s victims.
In Britain, accusations of abuse in the sport have made headlines when former gymnasts complained of having suffered decades of abuse “akin to torture” at the hands of one of their coaches.
The Netherlands’ gymnastics federation last year suspended its women’s training program pending an investigation. Japan and New Zealand have looked into similar issues.