ASC apologises to past AIS athletes subjected to ‘inappropriate treatment’

The Australian Sports Commission has issued an apology to former athletes who were subjected to “inappropriate treatment” when they attended the Canberra-based institution in the past.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ASC board said it wanted to say sorry to former alumni of the high performance sports “factory” and “offer our apology and ongoing support to former Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) athletes treated inappropriately in the past”.

A report into gymnastics in Australia has made for grim reading. Credit:Vince Caligiuri

The move comes after the shocking revelations of abuse in gymnastics, after the Australian Human Rights Commission this week released a damning report in the way young gymnasts were treated by coaches.

“We know incidents and practices occurred that are not acceptable. For this, we are truly sorry,” the ASC said.

“We admire the courage of people who have come forward to share their stories. We assure you, we are listening and you have been heard. We have begun reaching out personally to athletes to offer our support.

“The AIS ran athlete scholarship programs for various sports from 1981 to 2012. Thousands of athletes have been part of the AIS story and we know most will remember their time fondly. Unfortunately, that is not everyone’s experience.

“We owe it to every athlete who has been part of the AIS, to feel supported and to get help if, and when, they need it.”

The organisation was set up in the early 1980s to help Australia develop a cohort of athletes in various sports who could be internationally competitive and contenders for Olympic medals.

A confidential and independent support service, AIS Be Heard, has now been set up for past athletes.

“It is available to any former AIS athletes and staff, across all sports, to share their experiences and seek the appropriate support services. Details are available at www.ais.gov.au/AISBe-Heard,” the statement said.

“This will link to our other support services and resources, including the AIS Mental Health Referral Network which provides confidential psychological support, at no cost for past and present high-performance athletes and staff. Details are available at https://www.ais.gov.au/mhrn.”

The ASC thanked the Human Rights Commission and Gymnastics Australia for going through the review, and said while it was a painful process it was “one which can bring positive outcomes for sport more broadly”.

“Today, we acknowledge our past so we can continue to lead Australian sport into the future.

“The ASC is committed to working with our partners in the Australian sporting community to address unacceptable practices of the past, and to ensure they have no place in Australian sport in the future.

“We will continue to develop and deliver programs and resources to support the health and wellbeing of athletes, coaches and support staff across the high performance sport sector.”

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