WELLINGTON: New Zealand's Sports Minister Grant Robertson has called allegations of psychological and physical abuse in gymnastics in the country "deeply concerning" and urged any athletes affected and their parents to come forward.
New Zealand's two largest newspaper companies, Stuff Media and the New Zealand Herald, reported at the weekend that club and elite gymnasts had complained of being verbally abused, body-shamed or forced to train while injured, with complaints going back to the 1990s.
A series of new allegations from former gymnasts and parents emerged in Stuff, the Herald and Radio New Zealand on Monday about elite gymnasts being sidelined after they complained about an overseas coach's methods, while allegations of abusive behaviour were not investigated properly.
Gymnastics New Zealand (GNZ) Chief Executive Tony Compier told Radio New Zealand on Monday that he had been unaware of any such impact on gymnasts who had spoken out, and he defended his organisation's investigation processes.
"I'm not aware of any ramifications or exactly what they mean by 'ramifications', but I've had no complaints raised with me in relation to that," he told Radio New Zealand.
GNZ were not immediately available for comment to Reuters.
Sports Minister Robertson said that he was concerned about the rising number of allegations.
"I would like to acknowledge the courage of those who have stepped forward," he said in a statement on Monday.
"It is imperative that sport is safe for athletes and that their wellbeing is paramount at all times.
"Sport NZ is working with Gymnastics NZ on the next steps that should be taken. I would encourage people to come forward if they have allegations to raise."
Sport NZ and GNZ have instituted an anonymous complaints procedure.
Mistreatment of gymnasts has been in the spotlight since last month's release of Netflix documentary "Athlete A", based on a newspaper investigation into the abuse of American athletes that led to the jailing of team doctor Larry Nassar.
In recent weeks, British and Australian gymnastics authorities have also launched inquiries.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Hugh Lawson)