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AFP
April 8, 2021

Greek gymnasts allege decades of abuse by coaches

Sports

AFP
April 8, 2021

ATHENS: Nearly two dozen Greek gymnasts alleged they suffered decades of abuse and neglect “bordering on torture” at the hands of their coaches, in a letter published on Wednesday.

The letter was sent this week to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and to sports authorities by 22 female and male athletes, revealed by Greek daily EfSyn.

It alleged “harsh and abusive” practices dating back to 1985 included forced fasting, psychological and physical punishment and sexual harassment.

The names of the signatories were withheld in the EfSyn report.

“For the first time, a cry of protest by a large number of gymnastics athletes about psychological and physical abuse is expressed en masse,” the athletes’ lawyer Alexandros Adamidis told the newspaper.

The head of the gymnastics federation Thanassis Stathopoulos, who took over after elections in March, said he had called an immediate board meeting on the issue.

“We stand by the athletes,” he told Kathimerini daily.

“We will move with full confidentiality and evaluate the weight of each allegation,” he said.

His predecessor Thanassis Vassiliadis, who headed the federation for the past 14 years, on Wednesday said the athletes should “name the culprits...so they can be removed from the sport.”

The athletes’ letter said coaches would slap, kick, shove and throw objects at them during training, even dragging some girls by the hair and grabbing them by the crotch.

On occasion, coaches would remove protective mats, causing injuries. Some of the athletes were forced to train while injured, the letter says.

Disciplinary measures allegedly included forcing athletes to train in extreme temperatures and denying them toilet breaks.