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Film about US gymnasts shows years of pain caused by silencing

by Ace Damon

Silencing is a practice of oppression. It is the blindness of the word that could manifest abuse, corruption or any other unlawful act. It is the obscure manifestation of a power that, although temporal, marks the lives of those who are subjected to a permissive structure, reinforcing oppressive practices.

In these 20 years of research with the memory of Brazilian Olympic athletes, I have heard many stories, several of them recorded on video. Without fear, without guilt. With names and surnames of people who took advantage of the moment and place of power they occupied.

It is known that power intoxicates and eludes inattentiveness. It makes us believe that the physical chair and table occupied in a room protected by walls, gates and armed security guards represent an eternal immunity guaranteed by what can be bargained at the moment. Sad illusion.

All power is temporary, but the acts performed during the tenure of an office are not erased with the eviction of the large and pompous room used as a symbol of authority. That is, positions are ephemeral. The consequence of the acts of those who occupy them, no.

Also in my travels around the world I heard reports of athletes who were not willing to report something during the recorded interview. Many, many waited for the camera to be turned off to resume the narrative about the pain of abuse. Moral, physical or sexual. What a pain! What a mark on the soul!

How much care and repair it would take for it to discolor until it was just a small stain. But not. The emergence of new abuse reports makes the scene revive, making present the abuse kept.

Society seems to be moving in a direction with no return in what concerns past injustices. And in sports there is no difference. Violence is no longer naturalized.

The dismissal of the Bulgarian techniques of the Swiss national team of rhythmic gymnastics for moral abuse points in this direction. However, what draws attention is that the complaint did not come from any athlete of the current team. And that has a reason for being. Fearful of losing such a desired spot, athletes submit themselves to all kinds of ill-treatment to maintain their position, thus authorizing abusive attitudes of all kinds.

In Switzerland, Brazil or the United States, the itinerary is the same, subjecting athletes to the excesses of unprepared people or even psychopaths.

The documentary “Athlete A” (available on Netflix), about the abuse suffered by athletes of the artistic gymnastics of the American team, shows this. There were years of silence and pain. Generations of girls were subjected to suffering at the hands of a doctor hired by a sports institution. There were numerous complaints covered by that same institution. Nothing there is fiction.

The question that remains is: how many careers were interrupted by the refusal to resign to the excesses of a cover-up system? It is difficult to know, because silencing leads to pathological mutism, the overcoming of which requires legal and psychological support.

The question that remains is what in fact are sports organizations doing so that this does not happen again? How many will Iliana Dineva and Aneliya Stancheva still insult dedicated and competent athletes? How many Larry Nassar will their conduct be facilitated by silent and lazy institutions, preventing girls from reaching where Simone Biles is? How many Joanna Maranhão will it take for a law to be created to protect victims of violence and abuse?

If sport is a phenomenon regulated by a value such as respect, it is necessary to listen, accept and take action on complaints. The new generations are grateful.

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