Addressing problematic sport cultures: A review of international culture reviews in women's gymnastics


Research suggests that maltreatment in sport is a significant issue across all ages, sports, and competitive levels worldwide (e.g., Alexander et al., 2011; Ohlert et al., 2021; Vertommen et al., 2016; Willson et al., 2021). Recently, however, women's gymnastics has been in the spotlight following the high-profile case of Larry Nassar at USA Gymnastics and the subsequent documentary Athlete A. The documentary served as a catalyst for gymnasts around the world to share their experiences of maltreatment through the #gymnastalliance hashtag on social media (Mueller et al., 2021), which prompted calls for independent culture reviews in six countries (to date), including Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland. The purpose of this study was to compare the international gymnastics reports and the extent to which the content of the reviews aligns with research evidence. Through a content analysis of publicly accessible reports, the potential contributors and consequences of maltreatment and recommendations for addressing maltreatment were explored; these findings were also compared against empirical evidence. Findings suggest that, despite differing contexts across the five regions, there were reported similarities in the nature and extent of maltreatment, and the factors that contribute to a negative environment in the gymnastics organizations; these findings were consistent with research on maltreatment in sport. Similarities and differences were also identified between the reports in the recommendations for culture change strategies as well as in the research evidence included. Future directions for research and the alignment of practice with research will be discussed.