Richard McLaren, who led investigations into Russian doping and corruption in the International Weightlifting Federation, will create Gymnastics Canada’s culture review roadmap after athletes spoke out about abusive practices.
McLaren Global Sport Solutions, headed by Canadian law professor McLaren, said Thursday it will work with Gymnastics Canada as the national governing body seeks changes that will allow it to forge higher levels of trust with athletes.
“The sport of gymnastics globally has been facing intense scrutiny and the same is true here in Canada,” McLaren said in a news release. “We will be reviewing the findings from international reports and engaging the voices of athletes and other members of the GymCan community.”
As part of the consultation process in developing the culture review roadmap, MGSS will speak with athletes and alumni as well as national, provincial and territorial leaders, coaches and parents to identify key issues.
The final report is expected in January 2023.
“It is imperative that Gymnastics Canada gets this right which is why we believe engaging the GymCan community will inform a best-in-class culture review and ideally foster trust in the process,” McLaren said.
In late March, a group of more than 70 current and former Canadian gymnasts called for an independent investigation into what they described as a “toxic culture and abusive practices” within their sport in the country.
“The issue of systemic child abuse in gymnastics warrants the full attention of the Government and, in continuing to ignore our calls in this regard, it risks the perception of complicity alongside GymCan,” the gymnasts said. “The Heritage Standing Committee has ordered an independent investigation into the culture of Hockey Canada. Just as it would be galling for Hockey Canada to pay for its own investigation, so too should it shock the conscience of the Government and public that GymCan should be allowed to investigate itself without oversight or any guarantee of accountability.”
A day later, Gymnastics Canada said it was saddened to learn that athletes feel the national governing body failed to address concerns of abuse but supported the request for an investigation to oversee the complaints.
Gymnasts for Change repeated their call for Sport Canada to intervene, saying the McLaren review isn’t independent since it’s been “bought and paid for by GymCan.”
They said GymCan’s response “bears striking similarities” to the strategy adopted by USA Gymnastics in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar, a U.S. gymnastics doctor, received a life sentence after accusations of sexual assault from hundreds of women.
“By failing to invite a fully independent, transparent, binding, and trauma-informed investigation, GymCan is continuing to refuse to acknowledge the systemic abuses that run rampant throughout this sport or to hold those accountable who have upheld this toxic system for decades,” they said.
According to the letter, there have been multiple complaints and arrests for various forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and that the subject of the complaints have been Canadian coaches, many of whom the athletes were exposed to as minors.
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Ian Moss, the chief executive officer of Gymnastics Canada, said he believes the culture review roadmap from MGSS will give the national governing body the clarity it needs to make the necessary changes in its system.
“We have asked MGSS to publicly share the final report in a manner that protects the identities of the participants and that outlines the insights and recommendations that will support our adoption of the new Abuse Free Sport program in the near future,” Moss said.