The Gymnastics Federation draws lessons from the report of the independent commission of inquiry that investigated testimonies about transgressive behavior on behalf of Flemish Minister of Sport Ben Weyts. A stronger integrity policy is now taking shape, including an expert committee that oversees the implementation of all the report’s recommendations. Former top gymnast Aagje Vanwalleghem is part of this expert committee, among others. “It is crucial that the work of the inquiry committee leads to a structurally stronger integrity policy,” says Flemish Minister of Sport Ben Weyts. “There’s just no going back. Every club should be a complete safe haven for all members.”
Last summer, worrying testimonies surfaced about transgressive behavior in the gymnastics world. Flemish Minister of Sport Ben Weyts personally took the file to himself and in August 2020 gave top magistrate Bart Meganck – himself a former athlete – the task of putting together an independent commission of inquiry. At the end of March 2021, this committee completed a report that showed that gymnastics coaches committed psychologically transgressive behavior with a strong drive to perform. The committee also made concrete recommendations to the Gymnastics Federation (Gymfed) to strengthen its integrity policy.
A stronger integrity policy is now taking shape, including an expert committee that will oversee the implementation of the recommendations from the investigation report. The expert committee is led by Bart Meganck, who also headed the independent committee of inquiry. The other members are top sports expert Eddy De Smedt, orthopedic expert Kristof Smeets, director Tim Stroobants of the Flemish Expertise Center for Child Abuse vzw and former top gymnast Aagje Vanwalleghem. “These are strong and credible figures, both inside and outside the gym,” says Weyts. “These people carry the necessary weight to continue to weigh in on the further process”.
Within the Gymfed there is also an open task force that will draw up a concrete action plan to tackle all problems related to transgressive behaviour. The task force has 14 members, including internal and external experts and representatives of the athletes, parents and ex-gymnasts. The Gymfed will work with thematic working groups, each focusing on a cluster of recommendations. The expert committee, led by Bart Meganck, will supervise the work of the open task force and report on this to Minister Weyts every quarter.
“The work of the independent commission of inquiry has clearly set a lot in motion,” says Weyts. “Within Gymfed, the switch now seems to have been turned around for good. Step by step, work will now be done on a much stronger integrity policy,” says Weyts.