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Conference to examine abusive behavior in gymnastics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The international gymnastics federation will hold a conference next month to discuss misconduct and abuse in elite programs and develop new rules of conduct, the body said Friday.

Gymnasts from countries including Britain, the Netherlands and Australia have come forward in recent months with allegations of behavior such as abusive coaching methods and fat-shaming. That followed the trial and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the United States women's team doctor who used medical treatment as a guise for molesting hundreds of young athletes. He was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison in 2018.

The federation, known as FIG, expressed concern that abusive behavior was sometimes considered acceptable, citing testimony from gymnastics and other sports “revealing how mistreatment, intimidation and even physical and psychological abuse are considered, in many regions, to be an integral part of the experience of high-performance athletes.”

“Although methods differ according to traditions and countries, and what might be considered as controversial methods in one country could be accepted in others, the FIG intends to set up global norms in the world of gymnastics, inviting everyone interested to contribute towards improving the sport and making it safer,” the federation said.

Gymnasts, coaches and other people involved in the sport can speak at the conference, which will be held online on Oct. 26-27. FIG president Morinari Watanabe said in a statement the focus will be on promoting good practices and drawing up new rules of conduct for the future, rather than to "exhume the crimes of the past."

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