More gymnasts compensated for bullying, sexual abuse by coaches
Many more gymnasts are entitled to 5,000 euros in compensation for emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and other misconduct by their coaches. A total of 171 gymnasts applied, of which 166 were approved for compensation. That number is significantly higher than the expected 100 victims when the gymnastics union and sports umbrella organization NOC*NSF announced the compensation in October 2021, Trouw reports based on the final report from the Gym Sports Compensation Committee.
The high number of approved applications means compensation will cost the gymnastics union and NOC*NSF 830,000 euros - over 300,000 more than expected. The high number is also striking compared to the many acquittals in disciplinary proceedings for these same crimes at the Institute for Sports Justice. The Compensation Committee ruled that the transgressive behavior very likely happened.
Of the 171 applications for compensation, ten involved sexual abuse, 144 involved physical misconduct, and 168 involved emotional abuse. Many athletes suffered multiple forms of abuse at the same time.
The Compensation Committee noted several examples. For example, gymnasts had to climb ropes using only their arms with weights hanging from their ankles. And they couldn’t stop until there was blood on the rope. “This already happened to young girls around seven years old.” Continuing training with blood blisters, bruises, or even broken bones was not uncommon. Pushing through flexibility exercises was standard for many with every warm-up. “The fact that the pupil cried with pain didn’t change that.”
Sometimes coaches refused to look at gymnasts for weeks, and they received no help with the exercises. Coaches often swore at athletes. The young women and girls taught themselves to show no emotion while doing exactly what the coach wanted, as much as they could manage.
Gymnasts going to foreign training camps had their bags checked for hidden food. “Those who stopped gymnastics more recently said that mobile phones were taken away, so that contact with home was not possible,” the Compensation Committee said.
This investigation focused only on gymnasts at a national level, so amateur and recreational sports are not included. The authors raised concerns about whether these abuses in elite sports are and will remain a thing of the past. “The committee finds it worrying that some of the (assistant) coaches mentioned by the applicants (despite this) are still coaches who work within gymnastics.”