Becky and Ellie Downie, world championship medallists, have joined the group of gymnasts speaking out about abuse in the British team. Their statement said that “cruel” behaviour was “so ingrained in our daily lives that it became completely normalised”.
The sisters, regarded as Great Britain’s best female gymnastics, said they “an environment of fear and mental abuse”, with constant questioning of their weight and attitude, as well as a level of over-training so severe their bodies repeatedly broke down.
Ellie Downie reported that she would not eat or drink the night before weigh-in day. Once a coach told her he “hoped the painkillers I was holding for an injury were diet pills”. She added: “The never-ending focus about my weight will leave scars which will never be healed, I suspect.”
Becky said that she trained to the point of physical breakdown several times. “Just 12 days later, at the European championships, my ankle broke down yet again; a direct consequence of the unsafe training I attempted to bring up less than a fortnight earlier.”
Weight was one of their main concerns. They mentioned that this pressure was put in all athletes, from a very young age to seniors. “At one time at this age, again after being told I was too heavy, I was told by a nutritionist to provide food diaries of everything that entered my mouth and send daily pictures of me in my underwear to ensure I wasn’t lying.
The sisters decided to speak after other athletes had come publicly this week to report abuses and mistreatments. Now they ask Jane Allen, chief executive of GB gymnastics, to step down.
After the allegations, an independent inquiry into the abuse scandal has been launched.
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