Gymnast tells MPs he was ‘broken’ by Gymnastics Canada’s handling of abuse claims – National
One gymnast said she was abused in her sport and was broken by a Canadian system that failed to address the abuse.
Ryan Sheehan spoke to the Congressional Committee on Safe Sport in Ottawa on Monday.
The 29-year-old from Edmonton joins several athletes who have testified before the Heritage and Status of Women Commission in recent months about abuse in sports in Canada.
“There were many nights where I felt irrevocably broken. I wasn’t broken by sports. I was abused in sports and broken by the system,” Sheehan told the Estate Commission.
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Sheehan has competed in two World Trampoline Championships.
Kim Shore, who appeared before him and the Women’s Status Committee and also attended on Monday, is the co-founder of Gymnasts For Change Canada.
Sheehan said he was groped by a national team therapist when he was a teenager.
“He reached into my gym clothes and underwear and groped my genitals twice,” Sheehan said.
When he spoke to the coach and a complaint was filed in 2019, Sheehan told him that the Canadian Gymnastics Association no longer had jurisdiction over the matter because the therapist was no longer an employee.
The Canadian Center for Sport Ethics has ordered GymCan to investigate.
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Sheehan learns that four others have come forward about their experiences with a therapist.
“This guy has never been licensed by GymCan,” says Sheehan.
After speaking in a 2021 social media post about the abuse and disappointment with which the Canadian Gymnastics Association handled it, Sheehan said a conversation with the organization’s welfare officer Gretchen Carr made him feel suicidal.
“She insisted that I had never filed a formal complaint, so there was no reason to be upset. As long as I paid attention to what I posted, both she and I would be happy with the outcome. It will be,” Sheehan said.
“My family and the organization to which I have entrusted my physical and mental health for 20 years have not done even the bare minimum to investigate my case unless they are coerced into silencing me. I could not do it.”
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University of Toronto professor Carr, who specializes in sports abuse, attended a hearing of the estate committee last week.
Sheehan criticized Carr’s position that Canada does not require judicial or national investigations into abuse in sports.
“Now with the opportunity to support a national investigation, Gretchen Carr stands up to researchers who don’t want anyone else to delve into sports corruption,” Sheehan said.
Kerr, who did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Monday, told lawmakers last week that the judicial inquiry would waste valuable time on making the sport safer.
“We’re going to lose time and money and lose progress,” Carr said. “We’ve got all the information we need to move forward.”
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Shore vehemently opposed Monday.
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“Resistance to a national inquiry needs to be scrutinized deeply,” Shore told the assembled lawmakers.
“Intentional blindness, power imbalances and undeclared conflicts of interest need to be exposed and resolved. Adults need to stop choosing to protect their heritage over protecting their children.”
Others questioned by the MP on Monday included Paralympic basketball player and AthletesCAN board member Bo Hedges and Western University assistant professor MacIntosh Ross, who represents Scholars Against Abuse in Canadian Sports.
“Unless all stakeholders in the sports system are educated about what it really means and what obligations everyone has to prevent these forms of behavior, future abuse cannot be prevented,” Hedges said. said.
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Athletes, coaches, elite managers, technical and medical support staff, chief executive officers, and board members all need to be better informed and trained in safe sport.
“We can’t just rely on what’s accomplished through e-learning and resources that give you a quick list at the click of a button,” he explained.
“We need to go ahead with checks to ensure NSOs are held accountable and ensure compliance in all these initiatives. We can no longer rely on the honor system.”
More than 100 members of Canadian academics against abuse in sports want a nationwide investigation, said Ross, who issued a petition to Prime Minister Trudeau.
“Sports administrators are ill-equipped to facilitate the meaningful and sustainable change this system requires,” Ross said. “The current abuse crisis and sport in Canada cannot be resolved through existing mechanisms. This is a human rights issue in sport.
“Both me and the Prime Minister are boxers. I hope Mr. Trudeau stays in the corner of the Canadian people. Throw in the towel at this sports system and save it from itself. It’s not an act of surrender. Judge those involved.” It’s not a thing, it’s an act of love, an act of love to the athletes, coaches and others who need you more than ever. Surrender.”
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