A girl has received a written apology from Gymnastics Ireland after her parents alleged racist behaviour on the part of one of its officials who left her out of a medal ceremony in the National Indoor Arena more than a year ago.
A video of the girl, who was the only black competitor in the line of young gymnasts, being overlooked as all of the rest of her peers received medals at the presentation in Dublin in March 2022 has been viewed by millions of people online.
Four-time Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles said the video “broke my heart”. She said she sent the girl a video message to offer encouragement, and added: “There is no room for racism in any sport or at all.”
Her United States teammate Jordan Chiles, an Olympic silver medallist, described the incident as “beyond hurtful on so many levels”.
In a statement, Gymnastics Ireland said it received a complaint from the girl’s parents following the incident, alleging racist behaviour.
In a statement to The Irish Times on Saturday, Gymnastics Ireland said it “engaged immediately” with the girl’s parents following receipt of the complaint, “in addition to immediately engaging with the official in question”.
“Initially we attempted to address the matter through the informal process of our discipline and complaints policy,” it said.
“However, following a series of communications with the parents they informed Gymnastics Ireland that they would not be engaging in the process and were seeking legal advice.”
Gymnastics Ireland was contacted by the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) in the summer of 2022 to inform it that it had been contacted regarding the complaint.
“We remained engaged with the GEF through the autumn and winter months during which time our internal process was suspended,” said Gymnastics Ireland. “In February, we agreed to resume internally and proceed to the next stage of our process.”
Gymnastics Ireland said this involved inviting the girl’s parents and the official in question to mediation, independently facilitated by Sport Dispute Solutions Ireland (SDSI), which was agreed to by both parties in early March.
Signed mediation agreements from both parties were received by Gymnastics Ireland in May and issued them to SDSI which then took over the process of setting up and conducting the mediation.
Gymnastics Ireland said it was contacted by SDSI on a number of occasions throughout June and July as it was “having difficulty contacting and getting responses from both parties”.
SDSI told Gymnastics Ireland July that “one of the parties” had informed them they were withdrawing from the process.
Gymnastics Ireland said it “immediately engaged with the relevant party to encourage their participation in the mediation process which they then again agreed to participate in”.
The mediation took place in August with SDSI subsequently contacting Gymnastics Ireland to inform it that a resolution had been agreed by both parties and the matter was “considered resolved”.
The official in question decided not to renew her membership with Gymnastics Ireland in August 2022 and has not been a member since then.
Gymnastics Ireland said the official was not sanctioned “as a mediated resolution was agreed between both parties”.
“This was a member to member complaint therefore we facilitated the process in line with our policies,” it said.
“As we were not a party in the mediation we are not privy to the meditation agreement as meditation is a private and confidential process between the parties only.”
In an earlier statement, Gymnastics Ireland said the official in question “accepted fully that what had happened had not been acceptable but stressed that it had not been intentional”.
“The official concerned said that upon realising the mistake they immediately rectified it and ensured that the competitor concerned was presented with her medal before she left the field of play.
“The official also expressed deep regret for what they described as an honest error and requested the opportunity to apologise in person to the competitor and her family. This request was initially declined.
“A written apology provided by the identified individual has since been issued to the competitor and her family.”
Gymnastics Ireland has more 36,000 members and is predominantly made up of young children and teenagers. It describes itself as having “a very diverse community of members covering all races, ages, genders, sexualities and socio-economic groups”.