Gymnastics-FIG updates code of conduct to safeguard athletes

(Reuters) - The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) published a new code of conduct on Friday to drive a positive cultural change in the sport by safeguarding athletes against abuse and make amends for "years of bad practice".

The revised code, approved by the FIG's Executive Committee last week, will be effective immediately and has been broadened to include all aspects of training, competition, sporting operations and communication.

"This new version of the code... helps to draw a clear line between what is considered good practice and what is not tolerable," FIG said in a statement.

In addition to the general standards of behaviour, the code also lists specific principles which athletes, coaches, judges and officials must commit and adhere to, with any infringement subject to possible sanctions under the FIG's rules.

The principles require coaches to "refrain from any inappropriate, insensitive, hurtful, mocking or critical comments or behaviour regarding the athlete's physical appearance, body shape or weight".

Mistreatment of gymnasts has been in the spotlight since the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as the sport has been rocked by stories of athlete abuse and cover-ups.

In January 2018, disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for abusing young female gymnasts who were entrusted to his care.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed by a group of former gymnasts alleging that Gymnastics Canada and six affiliated provincial organisations turned a blind eye to an abusive culture that saw athletes subjected to threats and humiliation.

British Gymnastics is also facing a group-claim lawsuit by a number of former athletes who allege both physical and psychological abuse from coaches.

"We cannot change years of bad practice in the sport overnight," FIG president Morinari Watanabe said. "Abusive training methods still prevail in some places, with the strong conviction that it is part of the path to success.

"That cannot prevent us as the governing body from setting up standards applicable everywhere, and by so doing, reminding everyone that they have rights, duties and responsibilities."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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