Gymnastics-Swiss trainers resign amid abuse allegations, poor performance

ZURICH (Reuters) -Trainers for the Swiss Gymnastics Federation's (STV) women's team resigned en masse on Wednesday following an ethics investigation that upheld athletes' complaints of psychological abuse and after a series of poor performances.

The ethics committee's report, which was presented to the STV's leadership on Aug. 27 and made public on Wednesday, recommended cutting ties with the coaching staff.

"By mutual agreement, it was decided that the current coaching team would relinquish the leadership of training with immediate effect and be released from their duties," the federation said in a statement.

The committee's investigation found violations of the Swiss Olympic Ethics Charter during the period from 2016 to 2019 "and that in particular the mental and physical health of female athletes was not sufficiently protected".

The STV initiated the review in November after two athletes said they had faced harsh training conditions and disparaging comments about their eating habits and body weight.

"I am deeply saddened by the investigation report and apologise on behalf of the STV to those affected for what happened," STV Director Beatrice Wertli said. "The psychological and physical integrity of the athletes is our top priority."

The STV described the resignations as a fresh start for the women's team, which - with the exception of star Guilia Steingruber, a 2016 Rio Olympic Games bronze medallist - had no realistic chance of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Athletes' mental health has been under heightened scrutiny following the recent withdrawals of star U.S. gymnast Simone Biles and Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka from high-profile events.

More gymnasts have been coming forward with allegations of physical and emotional abuse, including hundreds filed with Britain's gymnastics federation.

In July, the U.S. Justice Department found the FBI dragged its feet in probing sexual abuse allegations against disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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