Canadian gymnasts allege ‘abuse, neglect and discrimination’ in sport

In one open letter addressed to Sport Canada, the athletes asked the governing body to conduct an “independent investigation by a third party”.

This is after they claimed that Gymnastics Canada (GymCan) failed to address these issues and failed to earn the trust of athletes.

“Their [GymCan’s] the failure to adequately respond to ongoing systemic abuse, mistreatment and discrimination is troubling,” said the letter, which was shared by startup group Global Athlete.

He added: “For nearly a decade, fear of reprisal has kept us and dozens of other athletes from speaking out.

“However, we can no longer sit in silence. We tell of our experiences of abuse, neglect and discrimination in hopes of forcing change.

“We call on Sport Canada to take action to ensure that the next generation of Canadian gymnasts is not subjected to the physical and psychological trauma that we have had to endure.”

In a statement on its website Tuesday, GymCan said it was aware of the circulation of the letter and agreed that an external, independent organization should be created to oversee complaints.

“While we are saddened to hear that dozens of athletes believe we have failed to address these issues, we are committed to continuing to educate and advocate for system-wide reforms that will help ensure that all participants feel respected, included and safe while training and competing in the sport,” the statement read.

“We agree that a lot more supports need to be in place to tackle unsafe practices in sport […] We also agree that more work is needed to create more humanistic approaches where participants can thrive.”

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He added: “Gymnastics Canada, as the governing body for sport in Canada, has addressed any complaints or concerns that have been brought to the national body.”

According to the letter, complaints have been made about Canadian coaches over the past five years, many of whom instructed minors during training camps, competitions and national team assignments.

But the athletes allege that GymCan only paid “lip service” for the issues raised. The athletes say they “came to nowhere” with requests for an internal investigation within the organization.

The signatories – who are unnamed and say include Olympians and national team members – have called for an independent investigation by Sport Canada to “ensure the safety of athletes” in the future.

“Many athletes who have experienced abuse suffer significant ongoing psychological and physical consequences, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and chronic pain,” the letter states.

“We continue to experience harm from participating in programs run by GymCan, the very organization responsible for developing and protecting us.”

In a statement sent to CNN, Canada’s Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said there was “no place for harassment, abuse, discrimination or mistreatment in sport”.

The statement adds: “We have raised the standards and expectations of organizations that receive federal funding. We seek to strengthen how we monitor organizations’ responsibilities to keep their athletes safe, and we will hold organizations accountable if they do not meet expectations.

“Today’s open letter reminds us that we must act to create cultural change in sport at all levels. All athletes have the right to practice their sport in a healthy, safe, ethical and respectful environment.

The letter comes four years after disgraced former US gym doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in Michigan State Prison after pleading guilty to seven counts. of criminal sexual conduct.

During sentencing, 156 victims, including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, recounted how they traveled to Nassar to seek treatment for sports injuries, before being sexually assaulted and said that it was a form of treatment.

Two months earlier, Nasser had been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography.

Canadian gymnasts aren’t the only athletes in the country making allegations of abuse, either. Three years ago, bobsledder Kallie Humphries switched allegiance to the United States saying she was “targeted, harassed and bullied” by trainer Todd Hays – allegations Hays denies.

More than 60 other bobsleigh and skeleton athletes signed an open letter on March 7 calling for the resignation of senior officials from Canada’s bobsleigh and skeleton governing body (BCS), citing a “toxic” environment.

In response to the open letter, BCS issued a statement indicating that it would resolve all issues.

“We take the concerns of our athletes seriously,” the statement read.

“As we do at the end of each Olympic quadrennial, we plan to meet directly with our athlete community as soon as possible to review and address their concerns.”