British former gymnasts claim they were ‘beaten’ and ‘starved’ in abuse allegations

British former gymnasts – including an Olympian – have claimed they were beaten, starved and bullied by coaches.

Catherine Lyons, a former junior European and British gymnastics champion, has claimed she was bullied and assaulted by a coach.

She alleges she was hit with a stick in one incident, and also claimed she was starved for a week after being told she was overweight.

Ms Lyons said she was routinely shouted at and on occasion was left in a store cupboard with the door closed until she calmed down.

Now 19, she told ITV news she had undergone counselling since walking away from the sport.

Catherine Lyons, now 19, claimed she was assaulted and bullied by a coach, including being hit with a stick

Commonwealth gymnastics champion Lisa Mason, who competed for Britain at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, claimed she suffered abuse from the age of 10.

The now 38-year-old claimed the abuse included coaches putting Astroturf underneath her training area as a way of forcing her to keep her feet up, and making her train until her hands bled.

She also said gymnasts were routinely ordered to train with the help of painkillers while injured.

“We pretty much popped Voltarol constantly from the age of around 12,” said Ms Mason. “Some of my teammates could not do a training session without taking those.

Commonwealth gymnastics champion Lisa Mason claimed she suffered abuse, with some of it happening when she was as young as 10

“If that started wearing off, you’d get a cortisone shot. I was made to compete with a grade three strain on my ankle and a stress fracture in my shin.”

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Another former elite gymnast told Sky News she was “beaten into submission” by one of her coaches.

She said: ‘Mental and physical abuse was entirely the norm. We were taught to be more scared of a coach than of the skill we were attempting and that that was the only way to achieve it.

“I’ll never know if it was possible to be my level without it or if I could have been even better if I wasn’t beaten into submission.”

Lisa Mason, pictured competing in 2013, says gymnasts were made to train even when they were injured

The allegations come following the release of the Netflix film, Athlete A, which first aired on June 24.

The film recounted the story of US team doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexual offences against hundreds of underage American gymnasts.  

More than 500 women and girls said they were abused by Nassar, including Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and McKayla Maroney.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse during his time with USAG and at Michigan State University.

Catherine Lyons said she was starved for a week after being told she was overweight

British Gymnastics, the governing body for gymnastics in the UK, released a statement in response to the abuse allegations by British gymnasts.

The statement read: “The documentary ‘Athlete A’ currently being aired worldwide detailing the Larry Nassar scandal within USA Gymnastics has quite rightly shaken the sport to its core and has had a profound effect on us all.

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“[We] condemn any behaviour which is harmful to the wellbeing of our gymnasts.

“Such behaviours are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching.

“Our Integrity Unit investigates all allegations of emotional abuse and bullying that are reported to us or identified by our national network of club welfare officers and takes disciplinary action to prevent recurrence.”

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