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New Zealand becomes latest nation to face claims of abuse from gymnasts

REUTERS

Gymnastics New Zealand has launched "urgent inquiries" into allegations of systemic psychological and physical abuse of its athletes, media reports said, echoing similar complaints in other countries.

Stuff Media and the New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday that club and elite gymnasts had complained of being verbally abused, body-shamed or forced to train while injured.

Gymnastics NZ could not immediately be reached for comment.

Stuff Media, the largest newspaper and multimedia company in New Zealand, said a number of gymnasts had developed long-standing injuries, eating disorders or dependence on painkillers because of their treatment, with complaints going back as far as the 1990s.

Gymnastics NZ Chief Executive Tony Compier told Stuff it has launched "urgent inquiries" into the allegations.

"Gymnastics NZ is not aware of any of the specific allegations, however we would deeply regret any athlete being treated in a way that made them feel bullied or unsafe," Compier was quoted as saying.

"We do not in any way condone body-shaming, physical, emotional or mental abuse, or pressure put on athletes with regards to food and weight, or performing whilst injured."

Stuff and the Herald said Gymnastics NZ had set up an anonymous complaints procedure and urged anyone affected to use it to raise any concerns.

The reports came a day after Sports NZ, the governing body for sports in the country, said it would launch new measures to safeguard children.

The initiatives grew out of a 2019 investigation into the integrity of all sports in the country, where they looked at bullying and harassment.

The mistreatment of gymnasts has been in the spotlight since last month's release of the Netflix documentary "Athlete A", based on a newspaper investigation into the abuse of American athletes that led to the jailing of team doctor Larry Nassar.

In recent weeks, British and Australian gymnastics authorities have also launched inquiries.

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