Gymnastics: International federation to set up victim support body

Dr. Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, listens to a victim during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 16, 2018. Photo: REUTERS / Brendan McDermid

SWITZERLAND – International Gymnastics Federation president Morinari Watanabe told AFP on Tuesday that his governing body will set up a victim support body in the wake of the abuse of children by a former USA team doctor.

Watanabe said he was "shocked and saddened by the testimonies that many athletes shared speaking out about the sexual abuses they endured" at the hands of Larry Nassar, who was last month jailed for 60 years on child pornography charges.


Olympic champion Simone Biles was the latest athlete to reveal the abuse she had suffered in an emotional statement posted on Twitter on Monday.

"The welfare and safeguarding of children and young athletes is fundamental to our sport. We will not tolerate any abuse or sexual harassment in the gymnastics community," added Watanabe in a statement sent exclusively to AFP.

READ: Simone Biles reveals abuse by jailed US team doctor

He welcomed the International Olympic Committee's toolkit to safeguard athletes from harassment and abuse in sport and said it would be used as the base from which to establish "an independent body where any potential cases of abuse could be reported".

On Monday, American star Biles revealed: "I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar."

She added: "This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially coming from someone whom I was TOLD to trust."

Biles hit out at the "guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics and others" and called for an inquiry into how the former team doctor had been able to continue abusing for so many years.

Nassar, 54, was back in court on Tuesday facing new charges.

He is accused of molesting more than 100 female athletes over three decades and could be jailed for life if found guilty.


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