The AIS has responded to a damning report outlining the culture of abuse in Australian gymnastics by launching a confidential helpline aimed at supporting victims of the sport.
'AIS Be Heard' was launched on Monday morning, just hours before the findings of a review by the Australian Human Rights Commission into gymnastics were released, unveiling a culture of physical, sexual and emotional abuse underpinning a win-at-all-costs mentality in the sport.
Several pages in the report titled 'Change the Routine' referenced the AIS's long-running gymnastics program, one of the institute's foundation sports which ran from 1981 to 2012.
"As far as the AIS was concerned, the smaller and more petite you were, the better gymnast you made," one victim was quoted as saying in the report.
Another said: 'The first time I was called fat at the AIS, I was 11 years old and weighed 22 kilograms. There was another girl in my group who was called fat at nine years old when she weighed 18 kilograms. It goes to show that it really didn't matter what we looked like or how little we weighed, we were called fat regardless."
Yet another former gymnast mentioned "Every adult was on the coaches side. There was no one I trusted."
The Australian Sports Commission is still digesting the 110-page report, and is expected to respond further later this week.
At this stage the ASC does not plan to launch its own investigation into the findings, but is encouraging past and present victims of abuse in all sports to come forward via their confidential support service.
That follows on from the AIS Mental Health Referral Network launched in 2018 to provide psychology, psychiatry, neuropsychology and nutritional support.
"The AIS conducted a gymnastics program from 1981-2012, employing coaches and engaging scholarship athletes. We are aware of complaints throughout this history and of reviews to try and address them, including a public inquiry into the AIS gymnastics program in 1995," an Australian Sports Commission statement said.
"However, these latest allegations of past practises at the AIS are confronting and upsetting. We admire the courage of people who have come forward to share their stories.
"We welcome that the current Australian Human Rights Commission review has given these former athletes an independent channel to be heard.
"Additionally, we are establishing a confidential and independent support service. It will be available to any former AIS athletes and staff, across all sports, to share their experiences and seek the appropriate support services.
"We assure athletes, we will listen and we will support you regardless of how long ago the incident occurred."
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
It is understood several former Western Australian Institute of Sport gymnasts have already reached out to the AIS for support, after revelations last month they were forced to compete with broken bones, and were not fed enough under the WAIS program.
Gymnastics ACT has released its own response to the findings in the report.
"Gymnastics ACT acknowledges the release of "Change the Routine", the Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) report into the culture and practices of Gymnastics in Australia and commend the courage of those athletes, parents and coaches who shared their stories and contributed to the review," the statement said.
"As an organisation, we have an unwavering commitment to caring about our people, from our athletes at every level of participation, and their families, to our staff and volunteers.
"The safety, wellbeing and empowerment of our athletes and participants is our number one priority.
"At Gymnastics ACT, we will continue to maintain these priorities and strive for improvement, through the recently formed Integrity and Culture Committee, a sub-committee of the GACT Board.
"We support Gymnastics Australia in their efforts and will continue to work collaboratively to implement the recommendations of the AHRC."
AIS Be Heard - 1800 565 965
ASC Sexual Misconduct Helpline - 1800 272 4357