Under the hashtag #gymnastalliance, we published testimonials with dozens of Belgian gymnasts in recent days about the mental abuse that took place in the top sports hall of Ghent and according to recent facts are still taking place.
The GymFed can no longer deny that there is a structural problem. Unfortunately, the involved coaches do and are supported by the GymFed. The trainer duo Marjorie Heuls and Yves Kieffer explained in front of the camera that “insulting and intimidating is not their style”.
Unbelievable statements that immediately sparked a series of outraged reactions from bystanders and new revelations of victims of mental abuse in elite sports gymnastics.
It forced the GymFed to take concrete steps after so many years:
- All ladies who dropped out at the top gym after 2016 are invited for an interview.
- An independent ethics committee will review the
Immediately we ask ourselves why gymnasts who stopped before 2016 are not invited to an interview. After all, they also trained with the current coaches. In addition, we also wonder what use those conversations
will have. The fact that young ex-gymnasts have to come and share their stories with three adult GymFed employees testifies to an attempted intimidation rather than a genuine intention to listen.
After that meeting, we are allowed to make statements before an independent ethics committee, the members of which were appointed by… the GymFed. At the moment, it is also very unclear whether that committee will have a mandate to really do things and to what extent its opinions will be published and binding.
Many of us sounded the alarm bell years ago. Reports were made, complaints were formulated, cases were brought before the ethics committee. The applause for medals won, however, was louder than our cry for help, because too often people looked away and too little was heard. But if the federation’s operating resources largely depend on the number of medals achieved, this should come as no surprise.
According to the GymFed, these measures should now change that. Some of us are allowed to enter into a dialogue with the GymFed. A few. And this with the same federation that has spent years trying to ignore and cover up our signals and at the same time raise money based on our performance.
No thanks. We would rather fit for such a joke.
We will of course remain available to speak to a truly independent ethics committee to share our painful experiences with them again. No longer to help ourselves, but in the hope that the next generation of gymnasts can look back with a different feeling on their daily training in the top sports hall, the many internships, competitions …
We ask that the federation assume its responsibility. That she proves that she takes the situation seriously and treats it with due respect for all involved. That she acknowledges that there is still a fundamental problem to date and wants to tackle it decisively.
That is not the case for the time being. As the chairman of the KNGU in the Netherlands said, one cannot be satisfied with taking half measures if one wants to bring about a cultural change. There, in a similar study, all the trainers involved were put on hold for as long as the study is ongoing. A powerful signal that no abuse of any kind is tolerated and that it must be taken decisively.
We expect at least apologies from the GymFed and the conscious coaches and staff for their failure to protect the majority of their athletes over the years. Everyone knows that any mediation starts only with guilt and excuses. This also applies to the GymFed.
On behalf of everyone who has shared a statement in recent days and who has been fighting for a different top sports culture within the Flemish gymnastics world for years. We look forward to clear information about the actions to be taken.
Aagje Vanwalleghem, Gaëlle Mys, Dorien Motten, Laura Waem