The former gymnastics national team coach received a disciplinary sanction for improper behavior

An expert shakes up the dusty concept of beauty in

Urheilu reported in November about the inappropriate treatment experienced by former national team athletes. The gymnasts talked about constant weight loss and serious health problems.

Emma Hyuppa,

Ossi Saarinen

The gymnastics association has given a decision to the former head coach of the rhythmic gymnastics national team Laura Ahonen in a disciplinary case. Ahonen and another coach of the national team were suspected of acting improperly towards young, even underage, national team gymnasts for years.

The disciplinary committee of the gymnastics association imposed a disciplinary sanction on Ahonen. The committee did not announce the exact penalty. According to the association’s rules, notices or warnings about sanctions are not public.

The punishment was imposed according to the seriousness of the offenses and the general disciplinary practice. The athletes’ strict pace of weighing and monitoring their weight was considered inappropriate and inappropriate behavior.

On the other hand, the disciplinary committee stated that weight management is part of rhythmic gymnastics and thus a permitted training method, at least in elite sports.

The committee investigated the events of 2016–2021 and concluded that some of the alleged acts were outdated.

No disciplinary sanction was imposed on the national team coach, who was the second suspect.

Laura Ahonen, who has coached at the top level for ten years, states in the press release that she did her work without greed and with the best interests of the athletes in mind.

– I am happy that I can finally return to the normal routine in my coaching work after dealing with the matter that has been going on for over a year and continue my coaching work free from the burden caused by this matter.

Executive Director of the Gymnastics Association Maria Laakso considers it good that the disciplinary process has reached a decision, but does not comment on its content.

He states that every athlete must be guaranteed a safe operating environment in gymnastics.

– We have failed in that and I am really sorry for that. We have been making the cultural change for four years and we will continue it even more determinedly, so that inappropriate things do not happen in gymnastics in the future.

This is how events unfolded

The capital region’s sports academy Urhea made a request to the Finnish Center for Sports Ethics to investigate Laura Ahonen’s activities in the spring and winter of 2021, when it became concerned about the health and mental endurance of the national team gymnasts.

After the preliminary investigation, the Gymnastics Federation made a request for an investigation to Suek in June 2021. Suek submitted the report to the Gymnastics Federation in December 2021, after which the federation took the case to its disciplinary committee.

In Suek’s survey, there were ten women who were minors when they started in the national team. Suek’s investigation was limited to athletes who have been involved in national team activities after the 2016 Olympic Games. The national team did not make it to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.

Ahonen and the team’s second coach were moved aside from national team coaching at the end of January 2022.

According to the gymnasts interviewed by Urheilu, head coach Ahonen’s coaching methods included humiliation, bullying and pressure to lose weight. The athletes said that the coaches’ actions have caused them long-term and serious health problems, including eating disorders and depression.

The Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture asked the Gymnastics Federation for an official report on how safe the operating environment has been in the federation’s elite sports activities and on what measures the federation has taken and plans to take. The gymnastics association gave its report to the ministry in December.

Director General of Youth and Sports Policy of the Ministry of Education and Culture Esko Beach told Urheilu at the time that OKM will process the Gymnastics Association’s report in January and decide on possible further actions after that.