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UK Sport investigating 19 abuse allegations

UK Sport has confirmed that it is investigating 19 allegations of emotional abuse or neglect by coaches since 2017 on its British world-class programme athletes, according to BBC Sport.

The Freedom of Information request from BBC Sport uncovered emotional abuse and neglect from 2017, where five complaints were made, two in 2018, five in 2019 and seven so far this year.

Of the 19 allegations, complaints have ranged from bullying, neglect and inappropriate sexual activity between coaches and support staff with an athlete.

On the other hand, two allegations have been made to suggest that athletes from the programme have bullied their coaches and there have been no allegations of physical abuse or sexual activity with under-18s.

The magnifying glass has been cast over sport in recent weeks as allegations of abuse in gymnastics has been made public, with Olympic medallist Nile Wilson telling BBC Sport that he felt gymnasts were treated like “pieces of meat”. Additionally, sisters Becky and Ellie Downie spoke of the “completely normalised” abuse of gymnasts in the sport.

Since then, an independent inquiry has been launched by the British Athletes’ Commission (BAC) as well as a helpline from the NSPCC.

Sally Munday, UK Sport chief executive, responded to the number of allegations, stating she is “always concerned” when hearing that athletes are experiencing “unacceptable behaviour”.

The details provided do not include any specific sports or the athletes and coaches that the allegations relate to due to data protection and confidentiality rules.

In 2018, UK Sport carried out a ‘Culture Health Check’ report whereby 30% of British Olympic and Paralympic athletes claimed they had either personally experienced or witnessed ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and 31% also disagreed when asked on if they had the “opportunity to give feedback without fear of negative consequences".

UK Sport has to be made aware of any allegations and regularly updated on investigations that are taking place as part of the funding agreement between them and the sporting governing bodies.

Munday added: "National governing bodies are required to notify us of any case involving the conduct of world-class programme staff or athletes as soon as they become aware of a complaint.

"While UK Sport does not have the authority to investigate such cases, as an investment agency we need to ensure public funding supports only athletes and staff who uphold high standards of conduct.

"We take athlete welfare extremely seriously - and we believe that, whenever unacceptable behaviour does occur, it must be reported. We will monitor the progress of each NGB's investigation, and any disciplinary process arising, to its conclusion."

Author: Jake Wilkin