Alison Quigley

Gymnastics Inquiries - News from Around the World

Well before the advent of Athlete A, but particularly since that time, gymnasts from around the world have responded to the various traumas they’ve experienced in the sport by lobbying their governments or peak governing bodies to conduct independent reviews. What they all have in common is that the athletes involved want acknowledgement of their traumas, independent reviews that will flag the governance and cultural issues in the sport and a way to move forward.

Some countries have obliged. Others have not. And not all responses have been to the satisfaction of the gymnasts. While some countries have responded with independent inquiries that are broad reaching and look at systemic issues, others have narrower terms of reference, looking only at specific allegations.

What follows is a list of countries that have conducted some form of inquiry. I have listed these in order of the first inquiry to the most recent. The findings of several are yet to be published, and the list may not be comprehensive, but I will keep you updated when more news comes down the line. Please also be in touch with me if you’d like to contribute.

The American situation

Several inquiries have already been completed across America, albeit with narrow frames of reference. Many in the gymnastics community feel these piecemeal inquiries to do not address the corruption, trust and transparency shut downs at the national governance level. Gymnasts like Aly Raisman argue there is still a long way to go. She was saying this back in 2018…

And she is still saying it today, the question arising after the suicide of high-profile coach John Geddert. See: https://edition.cnn.com/videos/sports/2021/03/02/aly-raisman-calls-for-independent-investigation-usa-gymnastics-abuse-scandal-larry-nassar-spt-intl.cnn/video/playlists/international-sport-playlist-general-videos/

The German Situation

The German Gymnastics Federation last year commissioned the law firm ‘Rettenmaier’ to investigate the allegations made by gymnasts training at the Chemnitz centre and specifically against the head coach, Gabriela Frehse. The commission was triggered by various newspaper revelations, published by Der Speigel in December. The law firm completed their investigation in January, and the results handed to the Federation mid January 2021. The firm did not publish the report but the German Gymnastics Federation has responded to the report here. Please note, the response is in German. Tools are available online to translate the PDF to English (I used this one) or please feel free to contact me for an English copy.

The New Zealand Report

A plethora of newspaper articles mid to late last year in the New Zealand press prompted Gymnastics New Zealand to commission a lawyer and two other experts related to the field to interview, investigate and compile recommendations. For more information go here.

The Australian Situation

After a deluge of social media and traditional press articles on the matter from June to September last year, Gymnastics Australia commissioned The Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry. Called the ‘Gymnastics in Australia’ review, the Terms of Reference (TORs) and further details can be found here. The report was released on Monday, May 4 and can be found here. I have dedicated a separate blog to my response to this report and have written an opinion piece for The Age & Sydney Morning Herald, which can be found here. 

Donaldson’s law firm is steering a collective action for plaintiffs wanting to recover damages for injuries. More information can be found here. For news with respect to former gymnasts from the West Australian Institute of Sport, and a Facebook page related to this, go here.

The UK Response

In the outcry following Athlete A, gymnasts in the UK rallied for justice. Sport England and UK sport co-commissioned a nation-wide inquiry. Barrister Anne Whyte, QC, and her team, have been taking calls for evidence, which only recently closed. An interim report clarified the terms of reference to include Scottish gymnasts’ grievances. You can find more information about the report here, and Anne Whyte’s updates here. The report is due circa June 2021. In the meantime check out the inspiring moves by Gymnasts for Change, holding governance to account for past abuses.

The Belgian Situation

Belgium gymnasts were among the chorus of athletes speaking out after Athlete A. Dorien Motten was among those who spoke up. See the Dvora Meyers blog for more – and for independent anonymous testimony see here. Gymfed, the Belgian Gymnastics Federation, has created a new ethics commission consisting of Bart Meganck, Judge in Ghent, Caroline Jannes, a sport psychologist, and Herman Huygens, a Magistrate. More about their investigation can be found here: https://www.gymfed.be/newsletters/webview/1680. There is an option to translate this page into English. The investigation started in August last year and is ongoing. “Gymfed ensures that the findings and advice, whatever the consequences, are taken into account, followed up and started.” Stay tuned to this space for more on the Belgium situation.

The Dutch Response

Even before Athlete A, gymnasts in Holland were speaking out about abuse, including against former national team coach Gerrit Beltman. But it wasn’t until Netflix aired that the deeper extent of the problem became apparent. Beltman, speaking to a newspaper mid last year, admitted he’d abused and humiliated gymnasts for years. Since this time, the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Federation has commissioned the Verinorm firm (Marjan Offers & Anton van Wijk), together with the Free University and Bureau Beke to run an investigation – https://verinorm.nl/. This investigation is ongoing.

Stay tuned for more updates

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