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Canadian gymnasts seek investigation into 'toxic culture'

A group of more than 70 current and former Canadian gymnasts have called for an independent investigation into what they described as a "toxic culture and abusive practices" within their sport in the country.

The gymnasts, who are and have been members of the Olympic and national team, said in a letter sent on Monday (Mar 28) to Sport Canada's director general Vicki Walker that for nearly a decade the fear of retribution prevented them from speaking out.

"We can no longer sit in silence," the letter said. "We are coming forward with our experiences of abuse, neglect, and discrimination in hopes of forcing change.

"We ask Sport Canada to take action to ensure the next generation of Canadian gymnasts is not subject to the physical and psychological trauma that we have had to endure."

According to the letter, there have been multiple complaints and arrests for various forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and that the subject of the complaints have been Canadian coaches, many of whom the athletes were exposed to as minors.

"We know that there are many more examples of harm that have not yet come to light, and we know that abusive behaviours continue in gyms across this country today," the letter said.

"The current Board and CEO of GymCan have failed to address these issues and have failed to earn the trust and confidence of athletes. Their inability to adequately respond to ongoing systemic abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination is troubling."

Gymnastics Canada Chief Executive Ian Moss did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the letter.

The athletes said any investigation must include a public release of recommendations and findings, all while protecting athlete anonymity. They also said the selection of any hearing body appointees or investigators must be agreed to by them.

Last March, former Canadian women's gymnastics coach Dave Brubaker was banned for life by the national governing body following an internal investigation.

In 2019, Brubaker was found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual exploitation after being accused of sexually assaulting a young gymnast years ago.

But Gymnastics Canada said a discipline panel determined he breached the organisational Code of Ethics and Conduct policies that were in effect during the time frame when the events occurred (1996-2017).

British Gymnastics is facing a group-claim lawsuit by a number of former gymnasts who allege both physical and psychological abuse from coaches.

In January 2018, disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for abusing young female gymnasts who were entrusted to his care.

Source: Reuters/ga

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