5 Aug 2020

Gymnastics New Zealand under review

6:24 pm on 5 August 2020

Gymnastics New Zealand will be subject to independent review following allegations of abuse.

Melbourne Arena, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; FIG World Cup Gymnastics 2019 Melbourne; An athlete performs on the bars


A raft of allegations have emerged over the past week about an abusive culture in the sport and Gymnastics New Zealand (GNZ) has now commissioned the former head of the World Anti Doping Agency, David Howman, to carry out what GNZ described as a "wide ranging" and "unfettered" review.

GNZ chief executive Tony Compier said the review, whilst independent, would link with both the Interim Complaints Mechanism and SafeSport email, which have been set up for athletes to use, to ensure all aspects of the sport are examined in light of the revelations.

"We appreciate that recent revelations do not just contain specific experiences of abuse, but also concerns in the wider context of gymnastics culture," Compier said.

"It is important to us that this element is not lost in the forensic examination of individual cases. This is why we have engaged David to sit independently from the organisation and these investigations, but provide the facility to incorporate findings and learnings from them, in a wider gymnastics review."

Compier said Howman would have "unlimited scope to review any aspect of the sport".

"This will include gathering data, information and perspective on what is working well and adding value, what is not and what needs to be added to improve participant experiences.

"As part of the review, David will have unfettered access to Gymnastics NZ and this will include a thorough review of policies, procedures and remedies concerning complaints, both past and present."

The terms of reference are currently being finalised.

Revelations of alleged abuse within the gymnastics community is a "wake-up call" for all sports to check their athlete welfare systems are adequate, according to Sport New Zealand.

Gymnastics is not the first sport in New Zealand to have been investigated over claims of athlete mistreatment or bullying.

New Zealand's high performance environment came under scrutiny after reviews into cycling, hockey, football and rowing revealed allegations of bullying.

Outgoing Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin said issues of athlete welfare can be hard for some sports to monitor but the sector needs to do more.

"[GNZ's situation is] another wake-up call for many organisations. It is really difficult, it's really complex, it is about rules and regulations, it's about culture, it is about training and education and it is about reporting, all of those infrastructures and systems need to be there," Miskimmin said.

"For some organisations that are all volunteer run that's quite challenging and quite daunting.

"But equally, every organsiation has that duty of care to its members, to the young people that are involved in their organisation so they can be safe and they can enjoy their experience."

Sport NZ had supported GNZ by providing access to an independent complaints mechanism for gymnasts to lodge complaints.

"It allows people that do have issues to be able to step forward and air their grievances in a protected and controlled way," Miskimmin said.

"The only way of dealing with this is through independence ... and shining a big spotlight into [GNZ] and then taking the learnings from that and making effective changes.

"We are working with gymnastics to ensure that they look within their own organisation and they look at their structures, systems and processes and culture and we're comfortable and pleased about the progress they are making down that front."