A group of 17 former gymnasts have launched legal action against British Gymnastics in a move which threatens to be the most damaging blow yet to the crisis-hit governing body.
The alleged victims, who are all female and include three Olympians, are suing for ‘negligence and breach of duty’ on the grounds that they were subjected to ‘persistent abuse’ by coaches that has caused them ‘serious and continuing psychological and physical damage’.
A 26-page letter of claim seen by Sportsmail has now been served on British Gymnastics by law firm Hausfeld and Co LLP, with the ex-athletes seeking compensation which could financially cripple the organisation.
One of the claimants, Jennifer Pinches, who represented Team GB at London 2012, said: ‘For too long we have seen British Gymnastics prioritise podiums over people which has led to untold damage to the lives of young people.
‘It is a heart-breaking truth to face, knowing the level of abuse that we and so many others were subjected to.
‘This is just the beginning of the sweeping changes that we are demanding, and the justice that we will fight for.’
The gymnasts’ allegations include ‘widespread inappropriate use of physical force’, ‘widespread bullying and intimidating behaviour’, ‘gaslighting’ and ‘inappropriate weight management techniques which is alleged to have caused eating disorders’.
They are seeking damages for any psychiatric or physical injury caused, any provisional damages for ongoing injuries and any special losses arising from the ‘defendants’ tortious actions’.
The claimants are aged between 15 and 43 and were allegedly abused between the ages of six and 23.
Hannah Whelan, the 2008 and 2012 Olympian, said: ‘It is vital that we get recognition of the shortcomings of British Gymnastics and support for the people who have been affected in order to come together to create the change needed.’