Australian gymnasts reveal details of emotional, mental abuse

Chloe Gilliland, formerly Chloe Sims, said she contemplated taking her own life because of the abuse she suffered. Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Gymnastics Australia CEO Kitty Chiller has released an open letter in response to multiple former gymnasts' allegations of emotional and mental abuse while training with the Australian gymnastics team.

In several social media posts from former Australian gymnasts, including past Olympians, stories of body shaming, manipulation and, in some cases, withholding of food were shared.

Chloe Gilliland, formerly Chloe Sims, a gold medalist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, revealed that she suffered from bulimia and contemplated taking her own life during her career, when coaches constantly told her that she was "too heavy."

"According to my personal coaches and national head coach, I was 'overweight' and a 'danger to my own body,'" Gilliland wrote on Facebook.

"They never called me 'fat' but remarked that I was 'too heavy,' which was why I repeatedly couldn't make it through my bar routine or the reason behind my stress injuries.

"My food portions were in response to my weight that morning. If they weren't making comments about being 'heavy for the next day,' the next thing they would revert to saying was that I was just stupid.

"I was often separated from teammates in accommodation, and I felt less of a member of the team because of this.

"So at 17 despite receiving sports psychology and dietitian advice, I felt it was easier to end my own life than to give in to what they wanted me to be."

Five-time national champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist Mary-Anne Monckton shared her story in a social media post last week.

"The abuse (physical, mental and emotional) needs to stop, or at least be stamped out of our sport," she wrote.

"I, like so many others, have experienced body shaming, have had food withheld, been yelled at until I cried (even as an adult athlete, which is downright embarrassing), and been manipulated and 'forced' to do things that I was not physically ready for or capable of doing, which ultimately led to career-ending injuries."

The revelations come weeks after two of Britain's most decorated gymnasts, Becky Downie and Ellie Downie, called out the "ingrained" and "completely normalized" culture of abusive behavior in British gymnastics.

Responding to the allegations, Chiller said in her letter that Gymnastics Australia has "zero tolerance to any form of abuse" and will work to ensure the community feels "safe, supported and empowered."

"I am writing to you about a hugely important issue for the Gymnastics community around the world - it goes to the heart of the culture of the sport and the behaviours that are expected and accepted in our community.

"We will continue to work tirelessly to uphold policies, education and behaviours to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members, especially young children accessing our programs and services.

"While we have accomplished a lot in recent years, I know that our work in this area is not finished, and nor should it ever be.

"Changing and building culture is a journey that is never complete. We need to continually challenge our thinking, actions and behaviours, and we can only do this by listening to those involved in our sport."

Many athletes have chosen to go public with their stories following the release of the Netflix documentary "Athlete A." The film delves into disgraced former Team USA doctor Larry Nasser, who was sentenced to a maximum 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting multiple gymnasts under his care, and the cover-up by both Team USA and Michigan State University.

No Australian gymnasts have raised allegations of sexual abuse, but the review into USA Gymnastics and British Gymnastics has clearly inspired athletes from the Australian program to speak up about their experiences.

"If you haven't watched 'Athlete A' on Netflix, I highly recommend you do," 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist Olivia Vivian said in an Instagram post. "My heart ached and it made me recognize this fear culture in Gymnastics exists all over the world."

Chiller also acknowledged in her letter the work the documentary has done to promote conversations about the culture in gymnastics.

"We are aware of the recent conversations about the culture of gymnastics following the release of the Athlete A documentary.

"We acknowledge and applaud those who have spoken up -- their courage and their voice. We see the passion that people have for the great things about our sport and we are grateful to all of you who want to help us make our sport as safe and supportive as it can be in the future.

"We are here to help you and to support you and we genuinely want to hear about your experiences and your suggestions. "I am 100% committed to ensuring that Gymnastics is a safe sport and a trusted sport in our community."