Gymnastics New Zealand apologised Wednesday and ordered an independent review into the culture of the sport after a string of athletes complained of physical and psychological abuse – including being “fat-shamed” and forced to compete while injured.
“We acknowledge these complaints, and deeply regret, and apologise for any harm caused to athletes,” the organisation said in a statement, adding it had only recently been made aware of the “distressing and concerning allegations”.
New Zealand media in recent weeks have cited gymnasts complaining about widespread emotional abuse. There were also allegations that gymnasts who raised the issue were punished by not being selected for major events.
There were also allegations that gymnasts who reported abuse were punished by not being selected for major events.
Many of the athletes remained anonymous but Olivia Jobsis, who represented New Zealand at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, told stuff.co.nz gymnastics had an “insidious” culture that needed to change.
She said girls and young women were left with long-term mental and physical damage because of the way they had been treated.
Gymnastics NZ said former World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director-general David Howman would conduct an inquiry with “unlimited scope to review any aspect of the sport”.
“David will have unfettered access to Gymnastics NZ and this will include a thorough review of policies, procedures and remedies concerning complaints, both past and present,” it said.
Gymnastics Australia launched a review into its culture last month after similar complaints.
The sport has come under the spotlight after the recent release of the documentary Athlete A, which looks at investigations into USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was jailed for life in 2018 after abusing more than 250 athletes.