Dutch gymnastics federation halts training over abuse probe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch gymnastics federation suspended its women’s top training program Wednesday with immediate effect while it carries out an investigation into allegations of intimidation and abuse.

Coaches involved in the program will no longer have an active role until a probe into alleged “unacceptable behavior and intimidation” is completed, the federation said in a statement that came with just under a year to go to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. One of the coaches is Vincent Wevers, father of 2016 Olympic beam champion Sanne Wevers.

The announcement followed days of Dutch media reports in which former gymnasts complained of intimidation and physical abuse by coaches in the past.

Members of the current women’s team, including Sanne Wevers, posted a statement on their Instagram feeds earlier this week in which they said that such abuse was a thing of the past. “In our current team, there is a healthy top sport climate,” they wrote.

A call and email to the gymnastics federation seeking comment from the coaches were not immediately returned.

Technisch Directeur Mark Meijer called it a tough decision, particularly for Olympic hopefuls preparing for Tokyo.

“But in the interests of the sport and credibility of our top sport program, it is necessary,” he said. “We are going to discuss with clubs and trainers affected about what exactly this means for them.”

The Dutch gymnastics federation announced its investigation last week.

It’s not the first to take action.

Earlier this month, British Gymnastics CEO Jane Allen announced an independent review of claims of mistreatment in the sport in Britain.

In Belgium, the Flemish gymnastics federation set up an ethics commission to look into allegations of abuse.

“Gymfed acknowledges that things have gone wrong in top sport coaching and deeply regrets that some athletes still have negative experiences,” the Flemish federation said in a statement Tuesday.

The Flemish federation said it has made “significant efforts” since 2016 to develop a more respectful collaboration between athletes and coaches. Some gymnasts said serious problems remain, and highly successful French coaches Yves Kieffer and Marjorie Heuls have faced bullying accusations. They have denied any wrongdoing and received support from double world champion Nina Derwael.

“I can say without hesitation that I can practice gymnastics in a healthy climate of high-level sport,” said Derwael, who trains under their guidance.

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Petrequin reported from Brussels

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