Becky Downie revealed her devastation at missing out on Olympic selection as British Gymnastics stood accused of sending a “sinister warning” to whistleblowers.
Downie had hoped to bring some joy to her family following the recent tragic loss of her brother Josh, who died of a heart attack during a cricket nets session.
Instead the 29-year-old, who battled through grief in her effort to reach a third Games, was informed she had not made the cut – and was not even among the three reserves.
On performance grounds the decision to omit the winner of 14 major medals for Team GB and England is contentious.
Viewed against the backdrop of Becky and her sister Ellie speaking out last year about “an environment of fear and mental abuse” at British Gymnastics, it raises a serious question in the eyes of many.
“We’re often concerned that British Gymnastics prioritises podiums over people,” the campaigning group Gymnasts for Change said in a statement.
“But with Becky having criticised the culture in British gymnastics just last year, it’s hard not to assume that their motivation in effectively ending Becky Downie’s career is a sinister warning to those who might speak out in future.”
The governing body rejected the allegation, saying “We were abundantly clear to selectors that no athlete who has raised concerns will ever see their gymnastic opportunities detrimentally impacted as the result of doing so.
“We have full confidence that selectors have made choices based solely on gymnastic merit and representatives from the British Olympic Association and British Athletes Commission attended as observers to ensure the policies and procedures were adhered to.”
Downie said: “I have so many questions. None more so than why I was offered an additional trial under such challenging circumstances, given what we all now know.
“Performance aside, first and foremost I’m a human being. I don’t think I’ll ever truly get over the experience that I endured at the final trial.
“Ever since I was a little girl winning an Olympic gold medal has always been my dream. I don’t have the words to describe how it feels now not being able to even try.”
Amy Tinkler, a bronze medalist in Rio, who has also spoken out abuse, tweeted:: “Imagine being told you haven’t made a team and knowing its because you have stood up for what’s right. Mind blowing.”
BG performance director James Thomas insists the issues Downie highlighted last year “we don’t condone” after revealing a Tokyo line-up of Alice Kinsella, Amelie Morgan and 16-year-old identical twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova.
He added that the governing body was working with the independent Whyte Review to ensure “any incidences of abusive coach behaviour are stamped out in the sport”.
Asked whether a selector or coach had ever told the sisters they should not have spoken out, Thomas replied: “I can’t comment on what other people may have done. I’m certainly not aware of that.”