Canadian gymnasts break silence on abuse and “toxic culture” in sport

They excel in the sports limelight, but their feats on the bar and barbell have obscured a darker reality: Canadian gymnasts are suing to denounce a cultural The “toxic” portrayal of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by the sport’s leading people. Having suffered harm for decades, victims around the world have continued in the wake of the US gymnastics scandal that erupted in 2015 before spreading abroad, including to Britain, where athletes mobilizer launched a similar legal action last year.

As a child gymnast in Vancouver, Amelia Cline dreamed of Olympic glory. As a teenager, the elite athlete spent thirty hours a week training.

“Unfortunately the early years of my gym days, no matter how active, they were somewhat wiped out by the last three years being so brutal,” said former gymnast, now 32 , told AFP.

She and other athletes on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Gymnastics Canada and several provincial federations for tolerating abuse and mistreatment over decades.

“The lawsuit is essentially designed to hold these institutions accountable for systematic psychological, emotional, physical and sexual violence,” she said.

In late March, a group of more than 70 current and former gymnasts published an open letter to Sports Canada denouncing a “toxic culture and abuse of methods”. training methods exist in Canadian gymnastics.”

The number of signatories has since grown to more than 400, with the group calling for an independent investigation to shed light on the sport’s problems.

Kim Shore, a former gymnast and spokesman for Gymnast For Change Canada, said “the public really doesn’t understand the gravity of the abuses that are happening at gyms”.

Micheline Calmy-Rey, president of the Exercise Ethics Foundation that was established in 2019 in response to the scandal said that “it seems reasonable to us that an independent investigation be conducted.”

Gymnastics Canada on Thursday said the allegations in the lawsuit “describe behavior that is unacceptable in any sporting environment and we take them very seriously.”

Bake about my weight

In a blog post, Cline said that at 14, she weighed 85 pounds (38.5 kg) and “I weighed in on my weight weekly.”

About 20 years after giving up fitness, she says she still suffers from the “long-term effects” of the abuse which left her in chronic pain and made it difficult for her to maintain healthy eating habits. strong.

Like many of her peers, she lamented the “culture of fear and silence” in gymnastics clubs around the country. “You don’t wonder what (the coaches) are doing. They’re the experts, and they’re the ones who’ll get you to the Olympics,” she explained.

“I’ve always been afraid of my coach,” another gymnast told AFP on condition of anonymity. “I love gymnastics. I love to travel. I like being with other girls, but I’m scared of them.”

She describes the strong sense of loneliness experienced by child gymnasts, whose parents are often banned from exercising. Very young athletes are even asked to never talk about their training.

“Many times kids who are told what happens in the gym will stay in the gym,” Shore recalls.

She says gymnastics has been marred by a “culture of control and domination” over athletes.

“Provincial bodies are made up of conflicting individuals,” she said, explaining that “in some provinces, the chairman of the board of directors is also the head coach of a gymnastics club.” .

Now that the lawsuit has been filed and the issues exposed, Cline and her attorneys believe the number of plaintiffs will increase “significantly.”

Cline just hopes her nightmares will never be experienced by other young gymnasts.


“There is really no other mechanism in Canada to really hold organizations like this accountable except through the legal system,” she said.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from the syndication feed.)

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