British Gymnastics has been accused of attempting to “circumvent” the independent review into bullying in the sport by contacting individuals who have submitted evidence.
The claim comes from Hausfeld, the legal team preparing a potential group action against the governing body. On Monday, it was announced that more than 350 submissions had been made to the Whyte Review, an independent investigation into allegations of abuse in gymnastics co-commissioned by UK Sport and Sport England. But a number of gymnasts who answered the review’s request say they have been contacted in the last few weeks by British Gymnastics asking for details about historic or current complaints against the organisation.
It prompted the legal team at Hausfeld to advise those contacted not to respond without prior legal advice. “This is highly inappropriate and seeks to circumvent the Whyte Review and prospective legal claims,” their statement read.
Former England gymnast Nicole Pavier, who had made a complaint in July to British Gymnastics’ integrity team, told Telegraph Sport she was one of those contacted “out of the blue” late last month and said it made her highly uncomfortable.
“Back when British Gymnastics opened their integrity line in July, I think that was the point where they could have been reaching out to people,” Pavier said. “But once you’ve got to the stage where we’ve already submitted evidence to the Whyte Review, I think that’s the point where you need to let the review do its job and look into everything. Though they didn’t ask me about the Whyte Review… [the call] made me really uncomfortable. I don’t trust they’re going to do the right thing by any of the gymnasts involved – especially after everything was dropped [in her parents’ original complaint] seven years ago.
“When they called, I sent them the document I’d written towards the Whyte Review because it’s 35 pages of evidence. Looking back now, I don’t know if it was a smart thing to do or not – I wish I would have spoken to the British Athlete Commission first.”
Another gymnast, who had a historical complaint against British Gymnastics, said she was also contacted by the governing body via telephone and asked to disclose details of her report. She said it made her suspicious of their intentions.
British Gymnastics categorically denied any wrongdoing and defended its actions, describing allegations of interference as “misleading, malicious and inaccurate”.
“[The claims] suggest that as an organisation we have been contacting individuals to discuss or revisit their allegations in order to influence The Whyte Review. This is categorically incorrect,” a British Gymnastics’ statement read.
“We are, and have always, endeavoured where possible to make contact with any member who has made allegations via social media or the media that we had not previously been aware of. This is something we have always done as it’s the right thing to do… This is exactly what we should be doing as our sport’s governing body. To be clear, such action has absolutely nothing to do with the Whyte Review.
“It is nonsensical to suggest that the Whyte Review is an alternative to British Gymnastics investigating complaints. It isn’t, the Whyte Review won’t investigate individual complaints and we rightly have no details of those who have made submissions to the Inquiry.”
British Athlete Commission chair, Victoria Aggar, disputed this. “At this time there is no reason for any athlete or individual who has made a submission to the Whyte Review to be contacted directly by British Gymnastics,” Aggar told Telegraph Sport. “We have reiterated this message to the 137 individuals the BAC are supporting.
“We can confirm that of the 350 submissions made to the Whyte Review, 137 came directly from the BAC on behalf of the individuals we have been supporting. The BAC personally applauds the courage and bravery of every single person who submitted evidence to the Whyte Review. We hope from this evidence that lessons will be identified and learnt from.”