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Report Accuses AIS Of Bullying, Abuse, And Sexual Harassment

T
he Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is set to release an independent report into the practices of gymnastics in Australia.

The report was launched nine months ago following allegations made by former Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) gymnasts.

Since then, nine former AIS gymnasts have made allegations of bullying, abuse, sexual harassment, misconduct, and one accusation of sexual assault.

In an interview with ABC, Dr. Sophie Vivian, a former AIS gymnast, described her tenure with the organisation as a lot of belittlement and humiliation.

“If you were not able to perform a particular trick, you would be ostracised from the group,” Vivian said.

The AHRC report details incidents of painful activities and techniques imposed on the athletes at a young age.

“Girls would very often be in tears or crying out in pain and that wasn’t taken as an indication to stop,” Vivian said.

There are allegations of body shaming and a culture of undereating.

An anonymous source, referred to as “Elizabeth”, told ABC she was called “fat” at 11 years old despite only weighing 22 kilograms.

“Quite often I did go to bed starving and not eat breakfast because I felt so sick in the morning,” Elizabeth said.

Her and Sophie Vivian described how other athletes at the AIS would sneak food to the gymnasts.

“If I was going to tutoring on a Thursday afternoon, dining hall would sneak us in and give us ice cream because ‘the gymnasts are being starved’,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth also alleges she was touched on her genitalia and breasts at the time by a coach at the AIS.

She reported the alleged assault to the police who told her there was not enough evidence to continue the investigation and the coach had left the country.

When asked about the allegations, a spokesperson for Gymnastics Australia said: “Any sexual abuse of any child is absolutely abhorrent.”

“There are clear mandatory reporting requirements that Gymnastics Australia, state and territory bodies and clubs are required to abide by,” Gymnastics Australia said.

On the effects on her mental health, Elizabeth said: “I was clinically diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 15 and was put on suicide watch.”

“I’m still on anxiety meds because of everything that happened.

“I still have nightmares.

“It’s damaging,” she said.

The nine former gymnasts who have made allegations are considering legal action against the AIS.

The AIS established a mental health referral network for past and present AIS athletes in 2018 and provides free and confidential support.

The Australian Sports Commission also currently offers a sexual misconduct helpline for former athletes.