The Minister of Sports and the Olympic Games, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, judged “unacceptable” on Friday, on France Info, the comments of the president of the French Gymnastics Federation who displayed the day before, in the National Assembly, his powerlessness to sanction coaches involved in cases of abuse. Heard by the commission of inquiry into dysfunctions in sports federations, James Blateau assured that he did not have the power to suspend the coaches involved.
His federation is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Sports for repeated and hurtful remarks about the weight of gymnasts as well as a slap inflicted on a minor during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. The procedure follows the broadcast last May of a report from the television magazine Stade 2 based on the testimonies of six former gymnasts from the French team reporting physical and psychological abuse. The leaders of the FFGym were summoned to the Ministry of Sports following the broadcast of the report, and one of the coaches was suspended.
Thursday, James Blateau affirmed before the deputies that he could not do anything about the case of the other coach in question, currently employed in a club in Rouen. “The coach is not an employee of the Federation, he is an employee of a club which itself is affiliated with the Federation. But we have no control over his employment, neither over his recruitment, nor over firing him,” he argued. “It’s the president of the club, the employer, who decides. We are nothing at all in that.”
Words that shocked the Minister of Sports. “It is not acceptable to hear that we cannot do anything, absolutely not, since I recall on the contrary that the federations have extensive disciplinary power,” she reacted on Friday. “They have the capacity to sanction all of their licensees whether they are recruited by clubs or by other affiliated organizations,” she continued. “A federation can sanction a club which disregards its obligations,” she recalled. “On the contrary, they have the range of weapons that allow them to take their responsibilities.” “In this gymnastics federation (we must) really turn the page on a culture from another time in terms of high performance,” tackled the minister.
For several years, the world of gyms has been shaken by cases of sexual violence, as in the United States, or abuse linked to training. Some gymnasts, mostly girls, claim to be subjected to food deprivation.