MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The head of British Gymnastics wants the government to set up an independent body to ensure the welfare of athletes, saying many sports lack the resources to adequately safeguard competitors.
"We love to watch our sporting heroes compete and triumph on the world stage, but we also expect that the pursuit of success is accompanied by high standards of athlete welfare," Mike Darcey said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Sadly, many sporting bodies are struggling to deliver on these expectations, for reasons of resource, expertise and perceptions of bias.
"The solution, I believe, is to establish a new independent body to ensure athlete welfare across all sports."
Sport England, which helps develop community sport, and UK Sport, responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport, introduced safeguarding measures in the wake of the Whyte Review, an independent investigation published in June 2022 that found numerous cases of mistreatment in gymnastics.
The safeguarding crisis in gymnastics, Darcey said, had created a backlog of hundreds of historical complaints.
"The issues raised by this backlog, and the parallels we are seeing in other sports, lead us to call for a centralised independent body to prioritise the welfare and safeguarding of athletes across all sports," Darcey said.
British Gymnastics, he added, lacks the resources and expertise to handle these cases, complainants and the subjects of complaints remain in limbo for too long, and because the national federation acts as investigator, judge and jury, it risks giving the impression of bias.
The British federations for athletics, swimming, cycling and bobsleigh are among the sports which have also faced allegations of maltreatment of athletes in recent years.
The United States is among countries which have a centralised body - the U.S. Center for SafeSport - to handle abuse complaints.
(Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Ken Ferris)