Open Letter from Lilia Podkopayeva

Lilia Podkopayeva is the 1995 world all-around champion, and the 1996 Olympic all-around and floor exercise champion representing Ukraine.

Of course she’s correct. The fairest and safest decision for the Olympic Movement is to exclude athletes from Russia and Belarus.

To: All National Olympic Committees and International Sports Federations of the world.

Almost a year ago, on February 24, 2022, Russia illegally invaded the sovereign and independent country of Ukraine, and began a brutal and unprovoked war. The genocide continues as Russian citizens are allowed to freely travel, leave their country and go about their daily lives with no concerns or guilt.

It is appalling and infuriating that the #IOC is allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to complete in the upcoming Olympics under neutral and non-political banners. Sport is anything but neutral and filled with more politics than anyone will admit.

We cannot allow their athletes to compete during the ongoing war, period.

Russia must be pressured from every direction to end the war and withdraw from Ukraine as soon as possible.

I appeal to all #NOC’s and #ISF’s of the world to unify in not supporting the allowance of Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Olympics or sports while the war is continuing and ongoing.

We have a moral obligation to preserve the integrity of sport through humanity and compassion. We have a moral obligation to do what is right, not easier or politically correct.

EVEN THE GREATEST GAME IN THE WORLD IS NOT WORTH MORE THAN HUMAN LIFE.

Florida athletes: when was your last period?

Did the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) vote to recommend that student athletes be required to turn in their menstrual histories to schools?

YES they did.

The FHSAA’s Board of Directors is set to render a decision on the proposal in February.

Former CAN Sport Minister on abuse in sport

Devin Heroux article.

A Liberal MP and former sport minister is again calling for a public inquiry into abuse in sport — and is accusing her own government of not doing enough to tackle the problem.

Kirsty Duncan said the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to build momentum behind her efforts to prevent harassment, abuse and discrimination in sport in the years after she left cabinet — despite knowing a lot about the problem well before Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations exploded in the news last year. …

CBC – Trudeau government dropped the ball on fighting abuse in sport

Current Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge:

“I can tell you that we’re taking it extremely seriously,” she told CBC News.

“That’s why we’ve invested $16 million in the last budget just to create the Office of the Sport Integrity Commissioner, because we felt it was so important to have that independent mechanism. I’m also making it mandatory for all nationally funded organizations to sign up with those before the next funding cycle.

“So any organization that hasn’t protected their athletes by signing up with OSIC will no longer receive the whole funding. That’s the strongest tool that I have. …”

Gymnastics Canada McLaren Report – my review

By site editor Rick McCharles

  • 974 individuals completed surveys
  • 58 personal interviews were conducted
  • More than 83% of gymnasts who were surveyed indicated their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Positive” or “Somewhat Positive”. For me, over 50 years a member, it’s been extremely positive as gymnast, coach, and judge.
  • 7% of gymnasts who reported their overall gymnastics experience as either “Extremely Negative” or “Somewhat Negative
  • Amongst competitive disciplines, WAG is described as being the most negative and subject to abuse

I did the survey and was one of the coaches interviewed. I immediately called out my interviewers asking if they considered themselves independent, as the Report was being funded by Gymnastics Canada.

Of course they were ready for that question. I came away convinced that Gymnastics Canada had no influence in their findings. For example, Mclaren did a similar report for Canada Soccer, paid for by Canada Soccer, and the report was damning.

IF GymCan had not contracted McLaren, right now we’d have NO report at all on how Gymnastics can be made safer for all athletes.

In fact, McLaren is more a ‘road map‘ laying out the issues as reported by stakeholders, and making recommendations as to ACTION steps. But not setting out targets as did the Daniels Report for USA Gymnastics.

It’s very lengthy (277 pages). Dense reading without any final summing up. I searched for the word “recommendation” in my PDF and there are many hits.

A total of 46 recommendations are made in 13 categories. It’s up to Sports Canada, GymCan and the Provincial organizations to follow-up with ACTION.

Here’s my own summary of key points with notes:

  • single individual (Canadian lawyer) be appointed to lead an independent multi-disciplinary team referred to collectively as the Culture Review Leadership Team (‘CRLT’) of about 10 people
  • Gymnastics Canada Athletes Commission nominate one male and one female member of the Commission to be included on the CRLT
  • dedicated section on the GymCan website communicate the Gymnastics Culture Review.
  • Improve communication

I should note that GymCan has historically had terrible communication procedures. Over the years I’ve complained that Canada is worst of all major Gymnastics nations in communicating their stories.

  • Final report should be posted on the website including a summary of key recommendations. With progress targets.
  • Safe Sport resources, tools, and clearly defined reporting procedures on the Gymnastics Culture Review website. Right now that is confusing.

Firstly — when do I phone the police? And, if not, what’s the procedure for making a complaint?

  • WAG and RG are the disciplines that have had the most number, and most serious, complaints. These disciplines require special focus. But policies should apply to all disciplines, all 222,000 participants, including recreational athletes.
  • All gymnastics clubs in Canada should be contacted for a dialogue on safety and ethics. Some of those Gyms should have personal visits on behalf of the CRLT.
  • Many individuals expressed concerns about the lack of alignment and effectiveness between local, provincial and national governance. Very true. Therefore new policies and procedures should be fixed by federal law or Gymnastics Canada.
  • at every level, transparency and communication is essential
  • we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Other sport organizations are ahead of Gymnastics in this process. The Cromwell Report on Hockey Canada, for example, published October 2022.
  • Gymnastics Canada’s organizational structure should be reviewed including roles, leadership, reporting relationships and employee performance management structures. Recall that USA Gymnastics replaced almost everyone as part of their reinvention.
  • I’ve heard many American coaches state that the 2017 Daniels Report did results in positive changes to USA Gymnastics.
  • And I was in the audience recently when Becky Downie and Danusia Francis both spoke positively about the changes made from the Whyte Review in Great Britain. Both had not been well treated by the system.
  • Is there a ‘win at all costs’ approach within high-performance? Does Own The Podium result in abuse to high performance athlete?

I hope not. For me as a coach it’s the Michael Jordan effect. When Jordan became a huge star, tens of thousands of basketball hoops were installed worldwide. More kids got more active. Healthier societies.

I’m hoping one Ellie Black, one Kyle Shewfelt, one Rosie MacLennan, does the same for Canadian kids.

  • British Gymnastics (Whyte Review) was deliberate in ensuring that recommendations were realistic and actionable versus “wide overarching recommendations.” McLaren feels 10 months is a reasonable time frame for GymCan to initiate many of these recommended changes. Other nations have taken 6 – 22 months.
  • USA (Daniels Report) called for follow-up audits on implementation. These were completed at specific intervals and published on the USA Gymnastics website.
  • Near the end of the report there are summaries of how other nations handled these same issues.

That’s it for now. I feel I’ve just scratched the surface of the McLaren recommendations. It’s well done. And I’m optimistic that changes will be made to make Gymnastics safer into the future — even if not every recommendation can be implemented.

Leave a comment on this post if you have questions or suggestions.


Note. Gymnasts for Change Canada, a victim advocacy group, is calling for an Independent Review of GymCan Leadership + Sport Culture

Some in that group feel the McLaren Report should not be trusted as it was paid for by GymCan.

Personally, I’d most like to see a federal government multi-sport inquiry into how all athletes in Canada can more safely participate and compete.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge have made statements sounding supportive, but have yet to do anything concrete other than refer the issue to 2 Standing Committees in the Canadian House of Commons; the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Best would be if changes could be put into federal law, compelling all National Sports Governing Bodies to comply.

The international Global Athlete organization supports Gymnasts for Change Canada.


Check out the McLaren Report for yourself.

Oleg Verniaiev on the IOC

The compromise (??) by the IOC makes no sense. It’s impossible to decide which athletes in Russia support Putin’s war and which do not.

Vitaly Marinitch suspended for alcohol problems

The French Gymnastics Federation (FFG) has suspended men’s gymnastics team coach Vitaly Marinitch, who is to leave his position due to having alcohol problems, 18 months before the Paris 2024 Olympics. …

It is not the first time Marinitch has been forced to quit in disgrace, having been asked to resign in 2016 from USA Gymnastics for groping the wife of national team member Steven Legendre on two occasions at a hotel bar in 2014. …

Inside the Games