Following this week’s publication of the Whyte Review, BAC Chair Vicki Aggar gives her assessment of what the Review should mean for British sport as a whole.
Back in the summer of 2020, I was among those who watched Netflix’s ‘Athlete A’ documentary which laid bare the full, unimaginable scale of the systematic abuse within USA Gymnastics.
Within weeks of the documentary being aired, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the issue of abuse in gymnastics was far from confined to the United States, as hundreds of British gymnasts and their families courageously stepped forward to tell their stories of mistreatment within the sport.
I’m proud to say that, from the outset, many of these gymnasts chose to put their trust in our team at the British Athletes Commission (BAC), and I was very pleased to see the team’s ‘tireless’ work commended by Anne Whyte QC in the Whyte Review, which was published on Thursday.
While our primary responsibility is to provide independent and confidential support to World Class Programme athletes in Britain, it is also crucial that we do everything within our power to ensure that the experiences that were being relayed to our team should never be repeated, in any sporting environment.
Therefore, as the scale of the problem began to truly reveal itself, my concern escalated over the way that these allegations were set to be investigated.
Back in early-July of 2020, British Gymnastics had announced it was going to undertake an ‘independent’ review of the situation. However, as I wrote in the Guardian at the time, the ‘independence’ of the proposal seemed to me incredibly dubious, at best.
As I wrote then, ‘we owe it to our athletes to ensure it (the review) becomes thoroughly independent, so that their concerns…(are) not brushed under the carpet’.
It was therefore pleasing to observe the chain of events which followed: British Gymnastics stepping aside from the review, UK Sport and Sport England co-commissioning a truly independent review, and the appointment of Anne Whyte QC to lead the review.
In the nearly two years which have followed, our team at the BAC has continued to support and advise the 280-plus individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. Along with the NSPCC, our team has worked tirelessly to ensure that this independent support is robust, effective and provides a genuine way forward for people who have gone through inexcusably traumatic experiences in sport.
More than anything, I hope that this week’s publication of the Whyte Review brings them a sense of relative contentment that their experiences have truly been heard, acknowledged and will contribute to genuine, positive change within gymnastics.
However, it is absolutely crucial that this Review – and the journey that we have taken to get to this point – serves a number of other purposes within sport as a whole.