A large-scale investigation into abuses in gymnastics paints a picture in which humiliation, intimidation and insults regularly occurred.

Gymnastics association KNGU apologized to victims on Wednesday.


than eight thousand gymnasts and former gymnasts were approached

for the research report

Unequal Leggers

(pdf), which was presented on Wednesday by research agency Verinorm.

Only 19 percent of those responded.

Too little, according to the researchers, to speak of a representative survey.

The results are "rather illustrative."

Former top gymnasts spoke of "living constantly under the threat of humiliation, insulting, giving negative criticism, making fun of the group, yelling, manipulating, intimidating, isolating, berating, coercion, blackmailing, controlling, threats, continuing to train with injuries and the incite unhealthy weight loss ”.

The report makes a number of recommendations (see box).

Recommendations from report

  • Someone must be present in a gym to address the trainer

  • Provide good aftercare, preferably sport-wide via NOC * NSF

  • Provide better education and training for trainers, especially pedagogical

  • Provide a centralized system, in which trainers are employed by the KNGU

  • Make the minimum age for participation in international tournaments eighteen

  • Follow the current group of talent and top athletes in their development, also by external parties

Abuses nowadays mainly mental

According to the report, there is less abuse among current athletes.

However, in addition to "training with injuries", other forms of mental violence are also mentioned, such as not being allowed to express one's own opinion.

Serious forms of unacceptable behavior (physical violence and rape) are hardly reported by today's athletes.

The research shows that the higher the sport level, the more athletes report unacceptable behavior.

It is most common among athletes who are active at international competition level.

The disciplines in which the most transgressive behavior is reported are women's gymnastics and acrobatic and rhythmic gymnastics.

The report cites the predominance of power of the trainer, the seclusion of the top sport culture, selection at a very young age and the many training hours as important risk factors.

Offenders are relatively more likely to be male, but women are also guilty of it.

The study also shows that one third of former athletes did not take any action after experiencing unacceptable behavior.

They lacked confidence that organizations such as the KNGU or NOC * NSF would do something with it.

In their opinion, previous scandals have been covered up.

Netflix documentary was the immediate cause

The independent research, funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and carried out by Marjan Olfers and Anton van Wijk, focused on mapping the nature, scope and approach of transgressive behavior in both top and recreational sport, among minors and adults in all gym sports disciplines.

The immediate cause for the investigation was the Netflix documentary

Athlete A

(2020), about the abuse scandal in the United States around sports doctor Larry Nassar and reports about abuses in gymnastics worldwide.

The KNGU announced the investigation in mid-July.

Not much later, the Dutch gymnastics coach Gerrit Beltman confessed that he had abused and humiliated young gymnasts during training for years.

This led to numerous statements from Dutch former gymnasts.

Other coaches were also accused of transgressive behavior.

Several of the gymnasts had spoken of abuses before, but the accused coaches remained active for years.