28 Jul Amy Tinkler: Length of British Gymnastics abuse investigation leaving ‘vulnerable at risk’ | UK News
Olympic gymnast Amy Tinkler has revealed that British Gymnastics could take up to one year to rule on her allegations that she was a victim of abuse, and says she believes it puts other young athletes in danger.
Tinkler, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when she was just 16 years old, retired three years later.
She now says she walked away from the sport because of her experiences at South Durham Gymnastics Club and with part of the British Gymnastics coaching team.
“I’ve been chasing British Gymnastics for a timeline on their investigation into my complaint,” she wrote in a statement.
She added: “I can confirm the complaint I submitted in December 2019 related to my experience at South Durham Gymnastics Club and against part of the British Gymnastics coaching team.
“I understand it could still take four months or more to reach a conclusion, making it nearly 12 months from my original complaint.
“I’m unhappy at the length of time this is taking as it leaves vulnerable gymnasts at risk of abuse from known clubs and coaches.
“I beg British Gymnastics to move swifter and take proactive action about our complaints.”
Tinkler said she hoped by speaking out it would encourage those who have yet to share their story to come forward.
“Please don’t be scared,” she wrote, adding: “It’s important that you speak up and the NSPCC helpline is available for all of us.”
The children’s charity has opened a helpline to cope with the growing number of complaints against British Gymnastics.
Sky News has spoken to several gymnasts, who also attended South Durham Gymnastics club, and have complained about their alleged treatment there.
One of Tinkler’s former teammates says she was ordered to unfollow the Olympic medal winner on social media and “have nothing to do with her” after Tinkler left the gym in 2016, just months after the Rio Games.
Emily Marsden, who is now 15, said: “I remember our group being sat down and then telling us that we had to block Amy and had to remove her from everything like Instagram, Facebook, whatever social media we had and have nothing to do with her.
“They didn’t really tell us why when we asked. They wouldn’t tell us. They said ‘you don’t need to know, just block her or you’ll be in trouble.'”
“I was gobsmacked,” Emily continued. “I didn’t know what to think.
“I didn’t remove her off anything because she’s my friend. I’m not going to block her out my life just because they’ve told me to.”
Sky News also spoke to Roxanne Jennison, who attended South Durham Gymnastics Club as an elite athlete and later coached there.
Jennison broke down as she claimed that she was subjected to obsessive control over her weight.
She said: “I was muscly but I wasn’t fat by any stretch of the imagination. I was constantly made to feel like I was and told I had to train in ankle weights and told that it was to make me know that next time that was how it would feel if I gained weight.”
Jennison said she was even weighed when she returned to coach at South Durham several years later.
She said: “It was an obsessive control over every area of your life. And it was the same when you went to national squad – you were weighed all the time and we often trained when we were hungry.”
Roxanne’s mum Eileen said she had feelings of guilt as a parent.
“The word I’ve used is that we were groomed as parents, almost brainwashed into believing that this is elite sport, this is elite gymnastics and if these kids wanted to win medals and be the best then that was what it took,” she said.
“I was manipulated into believing that was the only way.”
Paul Anderson, Chairman of South Durham Gymnastics Club, said in a statement: “South Durham Gymnastics takes any allegation of abuse or mistreatment very seriously and finds the allegations you’ve highlighted very concerning.
“No athlete in any sport should be subject to or endure any kind of emotional or physical abuse at any level and the perpetrators must be held accountable.
“South Durham Gymnastics categorically denies any allegations of abuse and mistreatment of any of its gymnasts.
“British Gymnastics has confirmed that any allegations of bullying or emotional abuse will be investigated by their Integrity Unit.
“It would therefore not be appropriate for us to comment further on the allegations or discuss individual cases that may be under investigation by British Gymnastics.”
The NSPCC welcomed Tinkler’s decision to come forward.
Louise Exton, NSPCC Helpline Service Head, said: “Amy Tinkler is not alone in her experiences of bullying and mistreatment within gymnastics and it was incredibly brave for her to speak out as well as hugely important.
“We encourage anyone who has similar concerns, whether you’re a parent, gymnast or someone involved in the sport at all levels to contact our free and confidential helpline to voice your concerns, ask questions or seek advice.
“Every call is important.”