Gymnastics

'Beaten, starved and screamed at' – Shocking abuse claims from British gymnasts

Share this with
Copy
Share this article

Lisa Mason (L) and Catherine Lyons

Image credit: Eurosport

ByEurosport
07/07/2020 at 08:11 | Updated 07/07/2020 at 08:32

British gymnasts are coming forward with shocking claims of physical and mental abuse in the sport, including one who was beaten with a stick, left alone in a store cupboard and starved for a week.

Catherine Lyons, a former junior European and national champion, says she was bullied and assaulted by her coach.

She said she was forced to train injured and sometimes hit, although she added the abuse was mainly mental.

Gymnastics

No Olympics for coaches under bullying investigation, say Team GB

16/07/2020 AT 16:06

Lyons was criticised for being overweight and, aged 10, was told to not eat anything at an international training camp.

Eventually she quit the sport before she could fulfil her dream of competing at an Olympics, with the ordeal leaving her being diagnosed with PTSD and requiring 18 months counselling at the Priory Hospital.

"As young gymnasts, we would get shouted at and screamed at. We’d get to the point of crying and in my case I would start hyperventilating," Lyons told ITV.

"The way that was dealt with was very wrong. Either music in the gym would be turned up for the coaches to not hear my cries, or I would be dragged into a store cupboard… and I was left in there with the door shut to cry myself to exhaustion.

"And we were taught that if we did want to train, we would have to go out and say sorry to the coach for our behaviour and our bad attitude. When realistically we were never the ones in the wrong."

The claims come in the wake of Netflix’s documentary ‘Athlete A’ about the US gymnastics sex abuse scandal.

Another gymnast said that "mental and physical abuse was entirely the norm… I’ll never know if it was possible to be my level without it or if I could have been even better if I wasn’t beaten into submission."

Meanwhile, Lisa Mason, who won vault gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and competed at the Sydney Olympics, said that the abuse in the sport was normalised.

"My coach put me on the bars until my hands ripped and bled; my hands would then be pulled down and surgical spirit would be poured all over them," she told ITV.

"I would also have Astroturf put under the bars, so I would burn my feet if I didn’t keep them up. But everyone else is going through it so you think it’s normal."

Lisa Mason competes at the British Championships in 2013

Image credit: Getty Images

Another incident saw her paraded in her underwear in front of her teammates as punishment for being viewed as overweight.

Mason said she had been inundated with messages from former gymnasts since the release of ‘Athlete A’, with some afraid to come forward with their accounts of abuse due for fear of missing out on the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

“A couple have said to me they want to be more vocal but they’re concerned about their position,” she said.

"We all know why. The Olympics is next year and we don’t want to rock the boat and upset the people who make those decisions.

"They’re going to be ready when they’re ready to speak out but there are a lot of stories from current gymnasts that are ready to go, but now is not the right time.”

British Gymnastics responded in a statement: "The documentary 'Athlete A' currently being aired worldwide detailing the Larry Nassar scandal within USA Gymnastics has quite rightly shaken the sport to its core and has had a profound effect on us all.

"British Gymnastics condemns any behaviour which is harmful to the wellbeing of our gymnasts. Such behaviours are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching.

It added: "We have worked with our gymnasts and taken specific actions to ensure that their interests and concerns are always considered and addressed and that they have a choice of routes to raise concerns.

"British Gymnastics is reaching out to any gymnast, either current or past, that has concerns around specific incidents or behaviours and encourages them to contact our Integrity Unit.

"This unit has the power to investigate any persons within British Gymnastics or its member clubs and take the appropriate action.

"British Gymnastics is here for every gymnast across the country."

Gymnastics

British Gymnastics moves aside from independent review

16/07/2020 AT 12:06
Gymnastics

'Heartbroken' Amy Tinkler says negative experiences led to gymnastics retirement

14/07/2020 AT 17:19
Related Topics
Gymnastics
Share this with
Copy
Share this article