Becky and Ellie Downie say abusive behaviour in gymnastics 'completely normalised'

The world championship medallists Becky and Ellie Downie have joined the group of gymnasts speaking out about shocking abuse in the British team.

In a devastating statement the sisters say abusive behaviour in gymnastics training became "ingrained" and "completely normalised".

The Downie girls, who are regarded as Team GB’s best female gymnastics medal hopes at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, said they had faced “an environment of fear and mental abuse”, with constant questioning of their weight and attitude.

The World Championship medallists, both current members of the GB squad, added in a statement on Twitter: "It's taken years and years to understand and come to terms with it.

"While exact experiences obviously vary, we both recognise the environment of fear and mental abuse those before us have described so bravely.

"For too long, the health and wellbeing of young girls has been of secondary importance to a dated, cruel, and - we'd argue - often ineffective culture within women's gymnastics training."

Ellie Downie, who in 2017 became the first British gymnast to win a major all-around title at the European championships, revealed she would not eat or drink the night before weigh-in day and was once told by a coach that she hoped the painkillers she was holding for an injury were diet pills.

Becky Downie, who has won 14 major medals for Team GB and England, described how she had been “trained to the point of physical breakdown” on many occasions, before admitting: “Only in recent years I’ve understood properly the mental impact that’s had upon me.”

"I was shot down, called ‘mentally weak’, and told the injury pain levels I was experiencing were in my head," she said.

On Tuesday, British Gymnastics announced an independent review will take place following allegations of mistreatment from a number of athletes in recent days.

The governing body said: "It is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns to British Gymnastics and it is vital that an Independent Review helps us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible.

"This review will ensure that all those with concerns about safeguarding and abuse have the correct and proper channel to raise any issues."

Downie sisters claim abuse in gymnastics completely normalised

The Downie sisters said they had decided to speak out following the lead of other gymnasts earlier this week including the British Olympians Francesca Fox, who was constantly told she was “fat” and “looked like a hippo” and Lisa Mason, who said she had been repeatedly made to train until her hands ripped and bled.

The sisters' statement continued: "We're speaking out now, just a year before the peak of our sport, the Olympic Games, because we have a duty to the wellbeing of the young children coming into gymnastics, and their safety is more important than any Olympic medal."

"We'll do everything in our power to see the sport showcase itself for what it should be: a place for boys and girls to have fun, be healthy and take it as far as they want to on their own terms."