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Former Canadian gymnast alleges abuse and calls for independent investigation

Former Canadian gymnast Abby Pearson Spadafora said Thursday she suffered years of abuse at the hands of Olympic coach Dave Brubaker and his wife Elizabeth and called for an independent investigation into the sport.

Pearson Spadafora said she had been “physically, verbally, psychologically and sexually abused” for years and that the sport failed to protect her and others from the Brubakers.

A lawyer for the Brubakers said he was unaware of the allegations and declined to comment further when contacted by Reuters.

Pearson Spadafora, 38, said Dave Brubaker touched her inappropriately on several occasions and climbed into bed and hugged her when she was 17. She said this incident and many others like it left lifelong trauma.

“The abuse I experienced as a child and young adult and Gymnastics Canada’s grievance process have had a negative impact on my life,” she said in an open letter released by Global Athlete.

“I suffer from PTSD symptoms that include anxiety, panic attacks and constant nightmares. … I will live with the harmful effects for the rest of my life!”

Dave Brubaker, who coached the Canadian team at the Rio 2016 Olympics, was suspended from Gymnastics Canada in 2017 after being arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes.

He was acquitted in 2019 of charges brought by a former student in connection with alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007, when the complainant was aged between 12 and 20.

“I refuse to be silenced”

As a result, the national umbrella organization imposed a lifetime ban after an internal investigation.

Elizabeth Brubaker was also suspended in 2019 while she was an elite trainer at the Bluewater Gymnastics Club in Sarnia, Ontario. Her suspension was extended until 2024.

Earlier this month, a group of former gymnasts filed a lawsuit alleging that Gymnastics Canada and six affiliated provincial organizations turned a blind eye to an abusive culture.

Athletes have been subjected to threats and humiliation, as well as inappropriate touching by coaches while being forced to train while injured, the lawsuit says.

In March, a group of more than 70 current and former Canadian gymnasts called for an independent investigation into what they described as “toxic culture and abusive practices” in their sport.

Gymnastics Canada said it takes these claims “seriously”. The sport’s governing body did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pearson Spadafora’s allegations.

“Today, I refuse to be silenced,” Pearson Spadafora said, while calling for an independent, third-party investigation.

“I stand by every survivor and I want them to know, I believe you!

“It is time for the Canadian government to act.

“Over 480 athletes have signed up, but the government has still not done anything,” she added.

“Too many survivors continue to suffer from their inaction.”

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