Gymnastics Canada said on Tuesday it was saddened to learn that dozens of athletes feel the national governing body failed to address concerns of abuse and supports their request for an investigation to oversee the complaints.
A group of more than 70 Canadian gymnasts who are and have been members of the Olympic and national team, said in an open letter on Monday that fear of retribution prevented them from speaking out about a “toxic culture and abusive practices” within the sport.
In a response to that letter, Gymnastics Canada’s board of directors said they are committed to continuing to advocate for system-wide reforms that will help ensure all participants feel respected and safe when training and competing in sport.
The governing body also said it agrees that a system must be in place to address unsafe practices in sport, supported calls for an independent investigation and agree that more work is needed to create an environment where participants can thrive.
“We are aligned with the signatories to the letter that we be part of the solution to bring about positive culture change, in Canada, and globally,” the board said in a statement.
“To that end, we will continue to work with our national sport counterparts, our international body and other countries towards systemic and attitudinal change in the sport globally and in Canada.”
According to the gymnasts’ open letter, there have been multiple complaints and arrests for various forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and the subject of the complaints have been Canadian coaches, many of whom the athletes were exposed to as minors.
Gymnastics Canada’s board said it recognizes that, alongside other national sport organizations, more needs to be done to ensure safety in sport at all levels and that it is apparent there are gaps in the management of safe sport.
“The sport of gymnastics, globally, has been the subject of many independent reviews of malpractice and abusive behavior that have been brought forward through both the criminal justice system and through the voices of brave individuals,” the board or directors said.
“Gymnastics in Canada is not immune to these issues, and Gymnastics Canada, as the governing body for the sport in Canada, has addressed every complaint or concern that has come forward to the national body.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)