July 30, 2020 / 9:11 AM / 6 days ago

Gymnastics: Australia human rights body to probe abuse complaints

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s human rights watchdog will conduct a review of the country’s gymnastics program following complaints of physical and mental abuse from a slew of former athletes, the sport’s national governing body said on Thursday.

The mistreatment of gymnasts has been in the spotlight since last month’s release of Netflix documentary “Athlete A”, which is based on a newspaper investigation into the abuse of American athletes that led to the jailing of team doctor Larry Nassar.

Former Australian gymnasts have since shared their accounts of being assaulted by coaches, fat-shamed and made to train and compete while injured.

Gymnastics Australia (GA) said the Australian Human Rights Commission had agreed to conduct a review to “build an understanding of the culture of gymnastics in Australia and any barriers there may be in reporting (abusive) behaviour”.

“The Commission will facilitate a series of listening and focus groups, seek written submissions and conduct interviews with key stakeholders to understand athlete (both past and present) experiences within the sport,” GA Chief Executive Kitty Chiller said in a statement.

“(It) will also review current policies and practices relating to the safety and wellbeing of athletes and the implementation and governance structures around those policies.”

The review is due for completion in the first quarter of 2021, with a report to follow, GA said.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) praised GA’s action.

“Committing to an independent review of policies, practices and governance structures sends a strong signal to the gymnastics community and indeed the broader sporting community of their commitment,” AOC Chief Executive Matt Carroll said in a statement.

The announcement of the review comes weeks after British Gymnastics said it would review its program following complaints of abuse from a number of former athletes.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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