GB Taekwondo and UK Sport in the spotlight over welfare concerns

Taekwondo
Taekwondo is the latest sport involved in a welfare controversy after cycling, swimming and canoeing

UK Sport is under further scrutiny after its treatment of complaints about GB Taekwondo was questioned.

Concerns from English Institute of Sport (EIS) medical staff over coaches' practices led to a review in 2015.

The EIS has queried the review panel's independence and findings, although both UK Sport and GB Taekwondo say the review was carried out appropriately.

Taekwondo is the latest sport to be involved in a welfare controversy after cycling, swimming and canoeing.

Medical staff working with GB Taekwondo raised concerns to UK Sport with regard to concussion, weight loss and training loads, including claims that athletes were asked to train in saunas, reported City AM.

This led to GB Taekwondo commissioning an independent review, although the organisation was allowed to select its own panel. They chose not to interview any of the complainants or athletes, according to the paper, but had access to written submissions and medical notes.

The report published last year found no evidence to support the complaints or of poor practice.

A statement from the EIS said it had concerns over the independence of the panel - which was set up with funding agency UK Sport's help - the management of the review process and did not wholly agree with the findings of the final report.

"The EIS has continued to have a dialogue with UK Sport around these issues," it added.

The GB Taekwondo team enjoyed its best Olympic medal haul last year, when Jade Jones, Lutalo Muhammad and Bianca Walkden won gold, silver and bronze respectively in Rio.

What do GB Taekwondo and UK Sport say?

GB Taekwondo says it "has no greater priority" than the health and wellbeing of athletes on its world-class programme.

"They are given an individualised training and competition plan as well as a bespoke nutrition and hydration programme which is underpinned by a robust weight management policy to ensure they are among the best prepared athletes in the world," it said.

"They travel with medical support at all times to ensure they are fully fit to compete in this demanding sport."

GB Taekwondo no longer uses EIS medical staff but says this change was planned before the claims were made, adding that improvements had been made to support athletes.

A UK Sport spokesperson said it took "appropriate and timely" action and there was not sufficient evidence to stand up the claims.

"That said we have asked our internal teams within UK Sport (performance and governance) to provide an extra emphasis in their monitoring in terms of both the world-class programme and GB Taekwondo's internal processes on athlete welfare/safeguarding," it said.

"We are also exploring how we can involve athletes more directly in providing their views on a confidential basis about both performance and services provided by practitioners."

Welfare and other sports

The latest claims come amid concern over the culture of high-performance programmes in British sports.

  • Cycling - British Cycling has apologised for various "failings" as an independent review examines allegations of bullying and sexism.
  • Canoeing - A British Canoeing coach was suspended last year following a formal complaint, the BBC learned. An independent investigation is ongoing.
  • Swimming - British Swimming is conducting an investigation after multiple bullying claims were made by Paralympians about a coach, the BBC reported.

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