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British gymnasts were subject to widespread physical and mental abuse in a system where such behaviour was condoned in the pursuit of national and international success, an independent report concluded on Thursday.

The review, led by Anne Whyte QC, was commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England in August 2020 following allegations of mistreatment within the sport in Britain.

The 306-page report, which examined over 400 complaints, found that British gymnastics suffered from a cultural problem where young athletes were shamed for their weight while others were handed out harsh punishments for the slightest mistakes in training.

“This behaviour included physical chastisement, inappropriate training on injury, the enforcement of excessive training hours and training loads leading to physical pain and exhaustion beyond acceptable limits,” Whyte said.

Some athletes were also prevented from using the toilet and refused access to drinking water during long practice sessions.

“One wonders how many sporting scandals it will take before the government of the day appreciates it needs to take more action to protect children who participate in sport,” Whyte added.

Whyte made 17 recommendations and said that said an ombudsman is “an obvious step in the right direction.”

UK Sport and Sport England accepted the findings and endorsed all the recommendations.

“The gymnasts’ experiences shared in this Review are harrowing and distressing to read. No-one in sport should ever be subjected to such abuse,” they said in a statement.

British Gymnastics added that they were committed to changing the sport for the better and apologised to the athletes who came forward.

“We will not shy away from doing what is needed. I want to wholeheartedly apologise to the gymnasts who have suffered as a result of us not working to the standards we set ourselves. We are sorry,” chief executive Sarah Powell said.

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