Olympic Gymnastics: Olympic medalist Wilson claims “culture of abuse” in British gymnastics

Nile Wilson has claimed there is a culture of abuse in British gymnastics and said athletes are treated like pieces of meat. The Olympic bronze medalist made the comments while criticizing the handling of a complaint he made earlier this year. Wilson becomes the latest gymnast to allege abuse in recent weeks, with athletes in Australia, Britain, The Netherlands and Switzerland having all made allegations of emotional and physical harassment.

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Several gymnasts have published stories of their own experiences following the release of Netflix documentary Athlete A, which details the abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics involving disgraced former team doctor Larry Nassar and an alleged cover-up by the governing body. Wilson is the highest profile male gymnast to allege abuse to date. The Rio 2016 high bar bronze medalist told the BBC that he had made a complaint about Leeds Gymnastics Club, where he was based, which related to an altercation with a senior member of staff at a club social event.

I just felt like I wasn’t being heard and I was wronged, the 24-year-old supposed. I believe there’s a massive element of control. We’re made to feel fear, or scared of speaking out, voicing our concerns, because they have us, our livelihoods, in their hands. If I voice my concern, I may affect my selection for Olympic Games. So, we stay quiet, we do what we’re told. And in wrapping that up, I feel like that’s the culture, that’s how I’ve experienced it the last two decades. According to the BBC, Leeds Gymnastics Club defended how the complaint made by Wilson had been dealt with.

“The allegations referred to were professionally and robustly investigated in line with the club’s policy and advice,” the club said.

At the time all parties placed on record their confidence in the meticulous investigation and evidence gathering process, the outcomes of which were independently verified. We would be pleased to co-operate with Sport England to arrange a further review of the papers pertaining to this very serious allegation.

We concluded the club had dealt with the matter appropriately. British Gymnastics launched an independent review in response to claims made by athletes including sisters Becky and Ellie Downie. The governing body has stepped aside from any involvement in the review. Olympic bronze medalist Amy Tinkler last month also criticized the national governing body over their handling of a complaint she made.

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Tinkler claimed the time taken by British Gymnastics to reach a conclusion to her complaint could put other gymnasts in danger. She also revealed that she had retired in January after making the formal complaint to British Gymnastics and not because of injury, as initially reported. Wilson told the BBC that he had been blessed to have had some incredible coaches, but he was critical of a win at all costs culture within the sport.

“It was certainly apparent that culture existed and still exists today, which I definitely want to change,” Wilson said.

I would certainly say that I was abused, without a doubt. I would absolutely describe it as a culture of abuse. And I’ve lived and breathed it for 20 years. British Gymnastics are among other national bodies in the sport which have commissioned independent reviews following allegations. Gymnastics New Zealand and the Royal Dutch Gymnastics Union have also announced similar processes in recent weeks. 

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