Dr Roslyn Kerr, Associate Professor in sociology of sport at Lincoln University, is part of a gymnastics research group which has written a manifesto calling for change to take in order to protect athletes. .
She spoke out in the wake of allegations of psychological and physical abuse in gymnastics in New Zealand, following overseas revelations.
The manifesto relates how “dozens of current and former gymnasts from several countries have taken to social media to speak out about the emotional/psychological, physical and sexual abuse they have experienced, including body-shaming, bullying and intimidation; racism; dietary control and restriction; overtraining and forced training and competing while injured; medical neglect; and sexual harassment and rape.”
It cites the dominant idea of ‘sport as commodity’, which based on neo-liberal models of high-performance sport governance, have created a ‘win at all cost’ mentality.
“The gymnasts’ speaking out has painfully exposed how this model of sport creates abusive treatment and short- and long-term suffering.”
Among the actions called for are to independently investigate abuse allegations and withhold sponsorship if gymnastic organisations are found to employ abusive coaches, breach human/child rights policies, and if they fail to ensure gymnast welfare.
It calls for the use of adult gymnasts as role models to “renormalise what gymnastics is, who gymnasts can be and what performances they can execute.”
The need for responsible research in the area of women’s artistic gymnastics is also stated.
“Sport science research has in many cases accepted the idea that gymnasts should be children and of thin/immature stature and thus, has contributed to the “pixie” model (which prescribes gymnasts’ age as young, and unable to succeed once older) becoming institutionalised globally.”
The manifesto is here:
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