The Higher Sports Council has concluded, after seven months of internal investigation, that there are “certain indications” of verbal abuse and harassment by Ruth Fernández, rhythmic gymnastics coach of the CAR (High Performance Center) of León and her body technician (Nuria Castaño, Eva Pelayo and Beatriz Brito). All are workers of the Spanish Gymnastics Federation (RFEG). The investigation began in October after the complaint filed by the mother of Claudia Jaimez, a gymnast from the CAR of León and a minor.
The RFEG plans to separate Fernández in the next few days. In a statement published this Friday at noon, it reiterated its “zero tolerance” for abuse and refers any decision to “pending the resolution of the CAR of León.” One of Ruth Fernández’s assistants is Nuria Castaño, a member of the national technical commission.
The resolution of the CSD (which ends only the investigation process, not the procedure itself, which could lead to sanctions) dated April 26 and signed by Joaquín de Arístegui, former director general of sports of the CSD, also points to the same Federation. “The instruction procedure developed by the CSD Protection Delegates concludes with certain indications of abuse and harassment committed by coach Ruth Fernández and her technical team towards Claudia Jaimez, during her time as a gymnast in the CAR of León. Likewise, it reveals signs of omission and absence of reaction against them by the RFEG ”.
It is the first procedure of its kind that the CSD has launched since the application of the new protocols for the prevention, detection and action against sexual harassment and abuse. Those of 2013 were updated at the end of 2020 to adapt them to the new Organic Law for the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents against violence. The Council’s protection delegates received Claudia’s mother’s complaint and opened an internal investigation in which, according to CSD sources, “numerous interviews have been carried out over weeks”. Active and retired gymnasts, members of the Federation, fathers and mothers, and the coaches themselves. Before this investigation was carried out, the CSD had already sent a warning to Ruth Fernández in the course of a procedure in which the new Protocol was not applied, due to a complaint from another gymnast, Carla Vilasánchez. He also prohibited him from weighing the gymnasts, reminding him that this had to be agreed with the Spanish Agency for protection and health in sport (AEPSAD).
Claudia Jaimez is now 16 years old and is in the fourth year of ESO. He was born and lives in Cádiz, where he returned after the Federation informed him, in August 2020, that he would not continue in the national team. “They told me that there was no money and that I had not met the objectives,” he says by phone. He started rhythmics at the age of 7 and moved to the CAR of León at the age of 14 in November 2019. He trained there until the beginning of the pandemic. “The first month everything went well. After Christmas the insults started. They made you feel like you were worthless. ‘Bollycao, marzipan, useless, you are the worst in the national team, you are worse than little girls. That way you won’t get anywhere, they’ll kick you out. ‘ You go into a loop because you get nervous about everything they are telling you and you are not able to focus on what you really have to do. And you enter a loop of failure, failure, failure and everything gets worse, “he details. He often came to train with anxiety pictures.
Did you ever tell the coaches to speak to you in a different way? “We couldn’t think of. We just shut up and tried to digest it in the best way because in the end she is your coach and you cannot question her way of working. If you do that, in addition, you are going to have a reprimand and you know that you can be fired from the team. And then you shut up and hold on ”, the gymnast answers. On The sect that dances to the rhythm of Ruth, a video report from the newspaper of León, an ex-gymnast from Fernández says that one day, seized with nerves, she could not stop crying, and the coach went to the bathroom, took a roll of paper and wrapped her as if she had a diaper on, forcing her to spend the afternoon of training.
“Other than that, the two days you had to be weighed was horrible. Because you already knew that your weight was going to determine the attitude of the trainers with you the rest of the afternoon. If you weighed more… they didn’t see you in the same way, they saw you as a fat gymnast who is useless, ”says Claudia. How much is it to weigh more? “They never told me you have to be at this weight or you have to go down here, I just had to go down and down and I couldn’t go up. At that time it weighed 47 ”, he answers.
This newspaper contacted Ruth Fernández this Friday to give her version of the events and received this response: “I would really like to speak and present my version, but from the beginning of all my lawyers have advised me to stay out of the means and do everything through the courts. Regarding the resolution of the CSD, neither I nor any of the people on my team have received it (we have had knowledge of it through the networks) and this at least seems to me wrong on the part of the CSD (without entering to assess the content of the resolution with which of course I do not agree). Until Monday I cannot meet with lawyers so now what I have clear is that I cannot let myself be carried away by the indignation that I have, since we are the ones who feel harassed and injured ”.
The CSD explains that it did not send the resolution because “as it is a partial resolution” it has only been communicated to the party that filed the complaint.
The RFEG assures in its statement to condemn “strongly” any type of abusive conduct. It also says that while waiting for the resolution of the CAR of León in accordance with its internal regulations, it will launch “a new sports project in the CAR of León, carrying out all those structural changes that are necessary to create and guarantee a safe sports environment. “And” will reinforce internal analysis procedures in sports structures in order to debug responsibilities in the event of failure to act against harassment, abuse or aggression of any kind “.
The trainers identified by the CSD investigation are Federation workers who use CAR facilities. The internal regulations of high-performance centers are from 2015 (prior to the updating of the protocols) and are simple rules for the use of the facilities (such as access to a restaurant) with a reference to compliance with the protocols and provide sanctions from 8 days to 12 months with “loss of user status”.
“In the resolution, which is only part of the process, the application of the internal regime is urged and the federation is urged to apply due diligence to protect against abuse,” explains Barbara Fuertes, head of the sub-directorate general of sport and woman of the CSD. He is also one of the people who has been part of the Advisory Committee that has followed the investigation procedure. “In application of the Protocol, the Advisory Committee ends the investigation and therefore the resolution calls for the application of the internal regime. However, the commitment against violence, harassment and abuse in sport pushes us to work to continue institutionally and normatively reinforcing the fight against any conduct that can be classified as such ”, concludes Fuertes.