Baddeley Margareta, L’association sportive face au droit: les limites de son autonomie, Basel 1994 (cit. Baddeley 1994); Baddeley Margareta, The extraordinary autonomy of sports bodies under Swiss law: lessons to be drawn, in: The International Sports Law Journal, vol. 20, p. 3 et seqq. (cit. Baddeley 2020); Blakemore Erin, How gymnastics became a deeply beloved Olympic Sport, in: National Geographic, 17 July 2021; Clarke Maria/Haddon Edwina/Taylor Jonathan, Best Practice in Sport Governance, in: Lewis Adam/Taylor Jonathan, Sport: Law and Practice, 4th ed., London 2021; Dubey Jean-Philippe: Nationalité sportive: une notion autonome?, in: La nationalité dans le sport: enjeux et problèmes – Actes du Congrès des 10 et 11 novembre 2005, unk. 2006; Haas Ulrich, Sportverbandsstruktur, in: Anne Mirjam Schneuwly/Yael Nadja Strub/Mirjam Koller Trunz (Hrsg.), Sportverbandskommentar; Hafner Yann, Le concept de nationalité sportive, Diss., Basel 2020; Huguenin Andre, 100 years of the International Gymnastics Federation 1881-1981: (essay on the development and the evolution of gymnastics within an international federation), unk. 1981; Page Lauren/Taylor Jonathan, The autonomy of the sports movement and its limits, in: Lewis Adam/Taylor Jonathan, Sport: Law and Practice, 4th ed., London 2021; Pfister Gertrude, Cultural Confrontations: German Turnen, Swedish Gymnastics and English Sport – European Diversity in Physical Activities from a Historical Perspective, Sport in Society, vol. 6, 2003, p. 61 et seqq.; Russel Keith, The evolution of gymnastics, in: Caine Dennis J/Russel Keith/Lim Lisbeth (eds.), Handbook of Sports Medicine and Science: Gymnastics, West Sussex 2013, p. 3 et seqq.; Schnydrig Hanjo/Brühlmann Jessica, Antidoping (materiellrechtlich), in: Anne Mirjam Schneuwly/Yael Nadja Strub/Mirjam Koller Trunz (Hrsg.), Sportverbandskommentar; Steiner Marco, Antidoping (verfahrensrechtlich), in: Anne Mirjam Schneuwly/Yael Nadja Strub/Mirjam Koller Trunz (Hrsg.), Sportverbandskommentar; Wanneberg Pia Lundquist, Gymnastics as a Remedy: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Swedish Medical Gymnastics, Athens Journal of Sports, vol. 5, 2019, p. 33 ffet seqq.; Zeigler Earle F., Sport & Physical Education in the Middle Ages, Victoria 2006.
Die Magglingen-Protokolle, Das Magazin, October 2020 (cit. Magglingen-Protokolle); Dysfonctionnements au sein de la gymnastique rythmique: le DDPS donne un mandat pour enquêter, Communiqué DDPS, Berne, December 2020 (cit. DDPS enquête) ; FSG, Organisation, Présentation de la Fédération (cit. FSG Presentation); Gymnastics Now, Code of Points published for 2022-2024 (cit. CoP Publication); Gymnasts 2028, GEF’s Strategic Framework (cit. Gymnasts 2028); Implementing ethical principles in sport: greater protection for athletes, DDPS, Information for the media, November 2021 (cit. DDPS – ethical principles); Les archives de la RTS, Ceux de la fédérale, 29 Javier 1979 (cit. RTS gymnastics); Rapport d’enquête de Pachmann Rechtsanwälte, FSG communiqué de presse, January 2021 (cit. FSG Pachmann); Rapport d'enquête externe réalisé dans le cadre des incidents survenus en rapport avec la gymnastique rythmique et la gymnastique artistique, Sur mandat du Département fédéral de la défense, de la protection de la population et des sports, Synthèse et recommandations, Zurich 2021 (cit. Rapport d’enquête); Statement on the report about the situation of rhythmic gymnastics in Switzerland, GEF News, February 2021 (cit. GEF Statement).
The sport of gymnastics involves the performance of a series of physical movements, which require strength, flexibility, agility, balance, coordination, and endurance. The word gymnastics itself is a catch-all, as it includes several disciplines of competitive sports, but also many less formalized activities (Russel, p. 3).
In 1881, gymnastics became an organized sport through the creation of a governing body, the Fédération Européenne de Gymnastique (FEG) (FIG History). The FEG continued to grow and include non-European countries, which is why, in 1921, its name was changed to the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) (Huguenin, p. 136).
The FIG is the recognized governing body for gymnastics worldwide, with over 160 National Member Federations (About the FIG). Its role is to manage the sport at world level and promote its practice (IOC International Sport Federations).
The FIG recognizes and governs eight separate disciplines: Gymnastics for All, Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampoline (including Double Mini-trampoline and Tumbling), Aerobics, Acrobatics, and Parkour (About the FIG). These disciplines each require different abilities and equipment:
- Gymnastics for All is recreational-level gymnastics, which offers activities for all ages and abilities. The aim being to celebrate the different possibilities provided by gymnastic performances (Presentation GfA).
- Artistic Gymnastics is the performance of routines on various apparatuses, differing for men and women (Presentation Men’s Artistic Gymnastics) (Presentation Women’s Artistic Gymnastics). As such, the FIG considers it as two separate disciplines.
- Rhythmic Gymnastics is the performance of routines to music, specifically whilst executing manoeuvres with hand-held apparatuses (hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon) (Presentation Rhythmic Gymnastics).
- Trampoline is the execution of acrobatics on a trampoline (Presentation Trampoline Gymnastics).
- Acrobatics is a teamwork discipline focusing on the completion of gymnastic feats consisting of acrobatic skills, tumbling and dance, set to music (Presentation Acrobatic Gymnastics).
- Aerobics combines both gymnastic skills and high-intensity dance (Presentation Aerobic Gymnastics).
- Parkour, which has its origins on the streets, is about moving in the most efficient way possible, often around urban environments, and including acrobatics (Presentation Parkour).
Gymnastic disciplines have been contested at the Olympic Games since the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in 1896 (FIG History). In 1908, the FEG participated in the Olympic Games as an official International Federation, responsible for gymnastics worldwide, for the first time (FIG History). Currently, four disciplines are included in the Olympic program: Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Rhythmic Gymnastics and Trampoline (IOC Sports).
The word gymnastics is derived from the ancient Greek verb «gymnazo», meaning to train naked, which is how the athletes of the time practiced sport (Russel, p. 3). Current-day gymnastics has four main ancestries: the performing arts, military training, educational professions, and medical professions (Russel, p. 4).
Gymnastics has developed from its Ancient Greek foundation to a modern sport but has been heavily influenced by many other cultures. Retracing its history, evidence of gymnastic-type movement has been found in ancient Chinese, Mesopotamian, Indian and Mediterranean texts and artifacts (Russel, p. 3). It was however the Greeks of the Homeric and Classical eras, who had the most lasting impact on subsequent gymnastic practices (Russel, p. 3).
There was limited formal continuity of gymnastic practices during the early Middle Ages (Zeigler, p. 18). It was a period of considerable economic hardship, and early Christianity tended to discourage physical exercise (Zeigler, p. 18). It was only during the Renaissance period that we started to see a re-emergence of Ancient Greece’s cultural and sporting ethos, which laid the foundation for the progressive development of modern-day sports (Russel, p. 4).
The creation of modern gymnastics is generally credited to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as the «father of gymnastics» (Blakemore). Jahn considered the French invasion of Prussia (1806-1807) as a national humiliation and felt there was a need to reinvigorate the country through sport (Blakemore). This led him to the development of a gymnastic system called Turnen (Blakemore).
The initial objective behind Jahn’s Turnen system was to bring people together in a sense of social unity and nationalism (Pfister, p. 65). The resultant gymnastic competitions provided a sporting and political forum (Pfister, p. 67). The system emphasized the military usefulness of gymnastics, rather than abstract achievement (Pfister, p. 67). Some of the apparatuses developed remain in use in current-day gymnastics, however the values and ideology of the sport are very different.
The «Turnen system» grew in popularity and, through the migration of Germans, spread outside of Europe. Other European countries similarly developed systems of physical fitness, with an emphasis on nationalism.
Another important influence of modern gymnastics is Swedish Gymnastics, which was developed by Per Henrick Ling in the early 19th century. Swedish Gymnastics aimed to exercise the body in a holistic and harmonious way (Wanneberg, p. 35). The idea behind Ling’s practice was that harmony leads to good health (Wanneberg, p. 35). Swedish Gymnastics shaped today’s physiotherapy but was also key in the development of modern gymnastics. Adherents to the Turnen system rejected the underlying theory of Swedish Gymnastics, although many of its exercises were eventually integrated into the Turnen program (Pfister, p. 82).
Gymnastics, under the FIG, respects the pyramid system of sporting governance and regulation, otherwise known as the European Model for Sport (Page/Taylor, p. 18; see also the contribution of Haas). This structure implies a hierarchy, with the International Federation, namely the FIG, at the top (Page/Taylor, p. 18; see also the contribution of Haas). The authority of the FIG is therefore entirely consensual, as it is derived from the agreement of its members to be bound by its rules and regulations (Page/Taylor, p. 17; see also the contribution of Haas).
The FIG plays a key role in the development of gymnastics (About the FIG). It sets the Code of Points, which is the rulebook that defines the scoring system for each gymnastic discipline (CoP Publication). Through the Code of Points in each discipline, the FIG regulates the evaluation of the gymnasts’ routines, which ensures uniformity and enables the comparison of results at an international level.
The FIG’s headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland. As per its Statutes, it is an «association established for an unlimited period of time and governed by Article 60 et seq. of the Swiss Civil Code» (art. 1.1 FIG Statutes). Accordingly, the FIG is governed by Swiss association law, which provides considerable autonomy to governing bodies of international sports constituted in the form of associations (Baddeley 2020, p. 3).
The FIG is an umbrella body for its members, the National Federations (Baddeley 2020, p. 3; art. 3 FIG Statutes), which are entities with the same objectives as the FIG, but with a national scope. The admission process to the FIG is described in art. 4 FIG Statutes, which will be further detailed in subsection B of this chapter.
The act of admission into the FIG implies the autonomy of both parties within the framework of the FIG Statutes. A National Federation, as a member of the FIG, remains an independent association and retains its autonomy within certain parameters (art. 26 FIG Statutes). Indeed, the National Federation agrees to limit some of its autonomy in order to be a part of the gymnastics «pyramid» and thus be the sole recognized body with authority to regulate the sport within its country.
Each National Member Federation has rights and obligations associated with its FIG membership, which can be found in the FIG Statutes. The rights and obligations preserve the integrity of the pyramid framework and are enforceable. Consequently, the failure to respect said obligations may have an adverse effect on ongoing membership, such as suspension of certain rights, or even expulsion (Page/Taylor, p. 41).
While the members of the FIG are the National Federations, additional entities called «Continental Unions» play an important role within gymnastics. Continental Unions are the five regional gymnastic organizations that aim to facilitate continental activities. They are not members of the FIG, but they are «recognized» by it (art. 24.1 FIG Statutes), which means they (at least theoretically) retain more autonomy than the National Federations. Recognition nevertheless depends on alignment with the FIG rules; additionally, their Statutes must be approved by the FIG (art. 24.4 FIG Statutes). Despite their lack of membership, they have a structural role within the FIG (see art. 12.1, 13.1 FIG Statutes). The National Federations have dual membership: they are simultaneously members of the FIG and of their respective Continental Union (art. 24.2 FIG Statutes).
There are two types of membership: affiliated or associated. While the requirements for membership are the same, the deciding authority is different (art. 4.4 FIG Statutes). The main distinction however concerns rights and obligations. The associated members do not have any of the rights mentioned at art. 5.1 FIG Statutes. The obligations of associated members are similar to those of affiliated members, although associated members are not required to participate in FIG events and competitions (art. 5.2 FIG Statutes), and they have a reduced membership fee (art. 21 FIG Statutes). Currently, there are two associated members to the FIG (Antigua and Barbuda Gymnastics Federation and The Gymnastics Association of Macau) and 160 affiliated members (FIG Directory). For the avoidance of doubt, this section will specifically cover affiliated members.
Pursuant to art. 4.1 FIG Statutes, a national gymnastics association wishing to become a member of the FIG must apply in writing to the FIG Secretary General. There can be only one National Federation admitted per country. This is an explicit application of the Ein-Platz-Prinzip, a generally applied principle in the sporting world, which recognizes the necessity for a uniform regulation of the sport through a single, identifiable national governing body (see also the contribution of Haas). However, since the term «country» in sport does not necessarily coincide with its political definition, art. 4.2 FIG Statutes specifically defines the term within gymnastics.
To be recognized as the sole Federation for a given country, the concerned entity must be recognized by the nation’s governmental authority responsible for physical education and/or sport, as well as by its National Olympic Committee (art. 4.2 FIG Statutes). In addition, the FIG imposes certain conditions as to the size of the Federation requesting membership (art. 4.2 FIG Statutes). These conditions ensure the importance and influence of the Federation within its country.
The process for admission to the FIG is provided for in art. 4 FIG Statutes. The National Federation submits an application form, which is examined by the FIG Executive Committee (art. 4.3 FIG Statutes). Upon approval by the FIG Executive Committee, Federations are admitted as affiliated members by a two-thirds majority of the FIG Congress (art. 4.4 FIG Statutes).
In December 2018, in wake of the horrific revelations of sexual abuse by USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar (BBC Nassar Case), the FIG founded the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4). The scandal had highlighted the lack of accountability within gymnastics governance, and FIG President Morinari Watanabe expressed the necessity for such an entity to ensure checks and balances within gymnastics: «Beyond the set missions, the creation of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation is aimed at establishing a veritable countervailing power in gymnastics governance» (Clarke/Haddon/Taylor, p. 287).
The GEF is a structurally independent entity, which aims to ensure a positive and safe environment for all participants in gymnastics (GEF Home). The independence of the GEF is essential to its effectiveness as an oversight body. While the FIG founded the GEF, it stands entirely separate from a governance standpoint. It is funded by the FIG but may also raise funds and accept donations independently.
The main mission of the GEF is to ensure that violations of FIG rules and regulations, as well as ethical breaches, are dealt with in an unbiased manner (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4) (see Specific Issues – «GEF Sections» for further details).
The Fédération Suisse de Gymnastique (FSG) is the umbrella association for Swiss gymnastics (A propos de la FSG). The FSG, as per art. 1.1 FSG Statutes, is an association governed by Swiss association law and its headquarters are in Aarau, Switzerland (art. 1.2 FSG Statutes).
Following the creation of the German movement «Turnen», gymnastic practices quickly came to Switzerland (RTS gymnastics). In the early 19th century, the first Swiss gymnastic groups were created (RTS gymnastics). In 1832, the first federal festival of gymnastics was held and the Fondation de la Société Fédérale de Gymnastique (SFG) was created; a central organization for men’s gymnastics (FSG Presentation). Gymnastics continued to grow in popularity and in 1908 the Fondation de l’Association suisse de gymnastique féminine (ASGF) was created (FSG Presentation). In 1986, the SFG and ASFG merged to become the FSG (FSG Presentation). Today, the FSG is the biggest sports federation in Switzerland (FSG Presentation).
The FSG is a multi-sport federation, which caters to all ages and abilities (art. 2.1 FSG Statutes). Its disciplines, which are listed on the FSG website, go beyond those governed by the FIG.
The FSG’s members are the cantonal and regional gymnastic associations and partners (art. 4.1 FSG Statutes); there are currently thirty members and the admission process is provided for in art. 5.2 FSG Statutes. Pursuant to art. 5.7 FSG Statutes, FSG members retain their autonomy with regards to their management and organisation. However, due to their FSG membership, they have obligations that are listed in art. 5.8 FSG Statutes. These obligations guarantee that the FSG regulatory framework is respected by its members and the members of its members. Indeed, FSG members must ensure that their members, mainly gymnastic clubs, respect all FSG rules; this demonstrates how the gymnastic pyramid works as the rules are applicable at all levels. Therefore, the intentional or negligent violation of the FSG regulations can be a cause for exclusion of a member association (art. 5.4 FSG Statutes).
Pursuant to art. 3 FSG Statutes, the FSG is a member of Swiss Olympic, the FIG and European Gymnastics (EG):
- The FSG therefore maintains memberships with both the FIG and EG, which is the recognised Continental Union for gymnastics in Europe. A such, the FSG must abide by FIG and EG rules.
- Swiss Olympic has a dual role within Swiss sports: firstly, it is the umbrella organization for sport in Switzerland and, secondly, it is the recognised National Olympic Committee (NOC) for Switzerland (art. 1.2 Swiss Olympic Statutes). Accordingly, Swiss Olympic has a vital role in gymnastics and other Olympic sports. Indeed, the Olympic quota places are allocated by the International Federation to the NOC, and it is the NOC that allocates the places to specific athletes. In Swiss gymnastics, this is therefore done by Swiss Olympic.
The sporting mindset has changed in recent years, and this has led to the development of an ethical framework within sporting organisations. The importance of ethics within Swiss gymnastics is illustrated by the choice to have a provision on ethics in art. 2.5 FSG Statutes. This provision clarifies the regulatory framework, which the FSG and its members must abide by. It should however be noted that the FSG, as a member of the FIG, is also bound by its regulations, which include ethical principles.
Firstly, the FSG recognizes the Swiss Olympic Charter for Ethics in Sport. This Charter is a mandatory component of the Statutes of each member of Swiss Olympic (Swiss Olympic Charte d’Ethique) and therefore mandatory for the FSG. The Charter contains nine general principles, which should be always respected within sport. These principles are then specified in the Swiss Olympic Doping Statute and the Swiss Olympic Statutes on Ethics in Swiss Sport (Ethics Statutes). Both aforementioned regulations are mandatory for all members of Swiss Olympic and thus mandatory for the FSG.
The Swiss Olympic Doping Statute implements the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) within Swiss Sport. For the most part, the Swiss Olympic Doping Statute simply mirrors the WADA Code, but it also defines the competent entities in the Swiss fight against doping, namely Swiss Sport Integrity (SSI).
The Ethics Statutes aim to guarantee the general principles of good practice outlined in the Charter for Ethics in Sport. They clarify the definition of ethics violations and create the regulatory basis for the investigation and sanctions following ethical breaches. These rules are not only applicable to Federations, namely the FSG, they are also directly applicable to the direct and indirect members of the Federations (art. 1.1 Ethics Statutes). This application scope allows a uniformity within Swiss sport with regards to what behaviors are acceptable.
Pursuant to art. 2.5.4 FSG Statutes, violations of the Swiss Olympic Doping Statute or the Ethics Statutes within Swiss gymnastics are dealt with by SSI. Swiss Olympic recognises SSI as the competent body for doping and ethics related matter in relation to itself and its members, therefore art. 2.5.4 FSG Statutes is in reality a repetition of pre-existing rules. As such, SSI is the central body within Switzerland that is charged with the responsibility of dealing with such cases (SSI About Us). It is financed by the Swiss government and Swiss Olympic (SSI Annual Report 2022).
In 2020, Swiss gymnasts came forward to report the abuse and harassment they endured during their time at the FSG’s national training centre (Rapport d’enquête). A few brave gymnasts detailed their experience of psychological and physical abuse to the Swiss media in the summer of 2020. A couple of months later, in October 2020, «Das Magazin» released an article named «Magglingen-Protokolle», which detailed the reports of abuse from eight gymnasts and quickly became national news. These articles brought to light the severity of the situation within Swiss gymnastics and forced the FSG and the Swiss government to take action.
The media coverage prompted the former leadership of the FSG to launch an investigation into the allegations, resulting in the so-called «Pachmann Report». GEF President Micheline Calmy-Rey was part of an expert group convened in order to discuss the findings and provide insight (GEF Statement). The finalized recommendations from the Pachmann Report ensured that the well-being of athletes is the FSG’s priority going forward (FSG Pachmann).
In December 2020, the Swiss parliament instructed the Swiss government to develop an independent national entity, which would act as a reporting service for athletes (DDPS enquête). In order to do so, Federal Councillor and Sports Minister Viola Amherd commissioned an investigation into harassment and abuse in artistic and rhythmic gymnastics and sought recommendations concerning the protection of gymnasts specifically (DDPS enquête).
Investigators met with various stakeholders in gymnastics, including the GEF leadership to gain a better understanding of the GEF’s work and also acquire further insight into safeguarding gymnasts. In this context, the GEF stressed the necessity for a positive sporting culture; the «winning at all costs» mindset being harmful to athletes, and the need for the welfare of athletes to be the main goal of any sporting entity (Rapport d’enquête).
The external investigation report (published in October 2021) highlighted that the existing Swiss national structures within gymnastics were insufficient for the protection of young athletes and that the state therefore needed to strengthen its supervisory role (DDPS – ethical principles). Based on the report, Federal Councillor Viola Amherd, Matthias Remund, Director of the Federal Office of Sport, and Jürg Stahl, President of Swiss Olympic, developed an approach, with a comprehensive set of measures, in order to better protect Swiss athletes in the future (DDPS – ethical principles).
One of the action points was the creation of Swiss Sport Integrity (SSI). The need for such an entity was recognized prior to the external investigation report but reinforced therein. The idea behind SSI was to replace the decentralised reporting system, which was previously used within Swiss Sport. Indeed, a central entity reduces the discretion given to Swiss sporting bodies, guarantees a uniform approach and encourages athletes to come forward without fear of retaliation. Therefore, on 1 January 2022, the Antidoping Switzerland Foundation’s mission was extended, and it was transformed into the Swiss Sport Integrity Foundation (FSG History).
As previously mentioned, the FIG recognizes and governs eight separate disciplines. One of these disciplines, namely Gymnastics for All, is recreational level-gymnastics based on four pillars: Fun, Fitness, Fundamentals, and Friendship (Presentation GfA). Gymnastics is a sport that can be practiced by anyone, no matter their age or ability (Presentation GfA). In order to encourage participation in gymnastics and develop the sport, the FIG organizes two Gymnastics for All events: The World Gymnaestrada and The World Gym for Life Challenge, which are each held at four-year intervals (Presentation GfA). These events are all-inclusive and showcase the performances of large groups of gymnasts (Presentation GfA). In addition, they bring nations together in celebration (art. 3.1 GfA Manual). However, the World Gym for Life Challenge includes a light-hearted competition between groups, whereas The World Gymnaestrada is purely a celebratory event (Presentation GfA).
Gymnastics is also practiced as a hobby sport in each country individually. In that regard, the FIG establishes general guidelines and principles for gymnastics, which are to be followed by its direct and indirect members (e.g. FIG Code of Ethics). In addition, National Federations, such as the FSG also have general guidelines. The FSG Statutes list certain obligations for its members, which include respecting the Swiss Olympic Ethics Statutes. The FSG also has rules concerning data protection and event publicity. However, regarding the specific regulations for gymnastics as a hobby, such as the conditions to be a member of a club, one should refer to the regulations of local gymnastics clubs.
International Federations create a regulatory framework concerning the organization and participation requirements of their competitions. Such rules serve two purposes: firstly, they ensure the integrity of sporting events, secondly, they attempt to guarantee a certain level of uncertainty concerning competition results (Hafner, p. 161 ff.). As there is no common standard between International Federations, the International Federations define their participation requirements freely (Hafner, p. 176 ff.).
Regarding the FIG’s participation requirements, they vary based on the specific competition and the FIG discipline. The FIG sets out rules for each discipline, which provide requirements for World Cup and World Challenge competitions. In addition, FIG competitions have Directives, defined by the Host Federation, which stipulate specific conditions concerning age limits, registration deadlines, entry fees, etc.
Concerning the age criteria, art. 5.2 Section 1 FIG Technical Regulations 2023 sets out the minimum age of gymnasts for competitions. The minimum age for participation varies depending on the gymnastic discipline. For the Olympic Games, the FIG develops three separate qualification systems: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, which each have specific age requirements. As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not have a minimum age requirement for the Olympic Games (art. 42 Olympic Charter), the International Federations can determine their own age requirements based on the health risks to younger athletes; for example, the FIG requires rhythmic gymnasts to be born on or before 31 December 2008 in order to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games (FIG, RG Qualification System – Paris 2024).
In order to participate in FIG-sanctioned international competitions (with the exception of Gymnastics for All events), a gymnast must possess a valid FIG licence (art. 1 FIG Licence Rules). The exemption for Gymnastics for All is aimed at promoting inclusivity. The conditions for obtaining a FIG licence are provided for in the FIG Licence Rules and in art. 5.1 FIG Technical Regulations.
To obtain a FIG licence, a given gymnast must have the nationality of a National Federation, in accordance with the FIG Statutes (art. 5.1 FIG Technical Regulations). Sports nationality and state nationality are two different concepts. Sporting regulations often do not refer directly to state nationality and instead have their own autonomous definition (Dubey, p. 33). The starting point to sports nationality is usually state nationality (Hafner, p. 177). However, there are other and/or different conditions to sports nationality due to the current social context, namely migration patterns (Hafner, p. 181.). Gymnastic nationality is defined in Annex 2 of the FIG Statutes; it is based on legal nationality and/or citizenship. For gymnasts with dual citizenship, they must choose which country they wish to represent on the international scene. The rules regarding changes of nationality for gymnasts who have previously competed in international competitions differ from national legislations. A gymnast who obtains citizenship of another country may only represent said country immediately if there is consent from the concerned National Federations, else the gymnast must wait a year. Annex 2 of the FIG Statutes provides further details.
To participate in a FIG competition, the athlete must respect the registration requirements as prescribed in the Directives of the competition. Registration is made through the National Federation for which the gymnast has sporting nationality. The registration deadlines and fees vary significantly from competition to competition.
Finally, to participate in FIG competitions, gymnasts must respect all FIG rules. In order to receive a FIG licence, gymnasts must sign an application form, in which they confirm having read and understood «the FIG Statutes, the FIG and IOC Code of Ethics, the FIG Code of Discipline, the FIG Code of Conduct, the FIG Technical Regulations, the FIG Licence Rules, the FIG Anti-Doping Rules, the World Anti-Doping Code including the International Standards, as well as the Code of Points, the FIG Accreditation Rules all other FIG Rules and Regulations and their amendments and agree to comply with and to be bound by them» (art. 3 FIG Licence Rules). This condition ensures that gymnasts have explicitly consented to the application of these rules. Due to the sporting pyramid, the gymnast is an indirect member of the FIG. However, the licence is a contractual relationship, which further guarantees that gymnasts are bound by the FIG rules. The respect of these rules by the gymnast implies that they can be sanctioned in case of violation.
Pursuant to art. 32 FIG Statutes, the GEF is competent to deal with alleged breaches of FIG rules. It should however be noted that the GEF may only intervene when the national mechanisms are insufficient, if means of action at the national level have been exhausted, or if the National Federation itself is implicated in the issue under investigation. As such, SSI is generally the competent body when an individual related to the FSG commits an alleged breach of FIG and/or FSG rules. SSI is competent in all cases where the individual has a position within the FSG, has an FSG license, or is a member of an association linked to the FSG (SSI Ethics Statutes).
The procedure before SSI is defined in art. 5 Ethics Statutes. SSI receives all reports of abuse within Swiss sport. SSI may, with the agreement of those involved, take steps to solve the matter directly. In all other cases, the SSI makes a preliminary assessment to ensure that is the competent body, and that the complaint is not obviously unfounded or abusive. If SSI deems itself competent, it opens an investigation and establishes a report of its findings. The investigation report is submitted to the Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Chamber, which is independent from all other Swiss Olympic bodies (art. 7.1 Swiss Olympic Statutes). The Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Chamber hears the parties and makes a decision with regards to potential measures. This decision may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) (art. 5.8 Ethics Statutes).
In cases unrelated to the FSG or when the SSI is not competent, the GEF’s Disciplinary section is the qualified authority to impose disciplinary measures and sanctions. There are, however, certain provisions within the FIG Statutes and other FIG regulations that allow for FIG organs to impose disciplinary measures in specific situations. Art. 2 FIG Code of Discipline (FIG CoD) provides a list of all the disciplinary authorities; for example: the FIG Council can impose sanction within the limits of the FIG Statutes.
It should be noted that the GEF Disciplinary Commission is competent to sanction any participant in gymnastics who is bound by the FIG rules. Therefore, the GEF has jurisdiction over all FIG Member Federations, gymnasts, FIG officials and FIG authorities. This ensures the correct person and/or entity is held accountable for their actions.
A report to the GEF can be submitted by individuals, the FIG or another organization (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 17). Following the receipt of a report, the GEF’s actions are guided by the FIG Policy and Procedures for Safeguarding and Protecting Participants in Gymnastics (FIG P&P on Safeguarding), FIG Policy and Procedures for Compliance (FIG P&P on Compliance) and the GEF Operational Rules. The report is treated confidentially and reviewed internally to determine if there has been a potential breach of FIG rules (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4). Depending on the situation, the GEF may decide to open an investigation, which can lead to disciplinary proceedings.
The FIG CoD governs the GEF’s disciplinary proceedings following an alleged violation of FIG rules; art. 3 FIG CoD provides a list of infringements. The FIG CoD therefore clarifies the procedure and the rights of the parties. The sanctions that may be imposed by the GEF Disciplinary Commission are listed in art. 34 FIG Statutes, and include a warning, the suspension of the Member Federation or the person concerned for official FIG events, the demotion of functions, a financial fine, the exclusion of a Member Federation, etc. In addition, art. 34 n°17 FIG Statutes allows for the Disciplinary Commission to impose «any other sanction which could be proposed». The GEF Disciplinary Commission therefore has discretion in determining the consequences of a rule violation. The consequences in a specific case depend on the nature and severity of the violation. The sanctions pronounced may be published in an official FIG publication (art. 34 FIG Statutes).
It is important to note that the GEF Disciplinary Commission does not deal with anti-doping cases. Pursuant to art. 1 FIG CoD, anti-doping disciplinary proceedings have been delegated to the Court of Arbitration for Sport Anti-Doping Division (CAS ADD).
Pursuant to art. 1.1 FIG Statutes, the FIG is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code signatory and is listed as such on the WADA website (see for further details about doping Schnydrig/Brühlmann and Steiner). Consequently, the FIG has a regulation «FIG Anti-Doping Rules», which mirrors the WADA Code. These rules are part of the FIG’s regulatory framework and are therefore binding for all participants in gymnastics. The specific scope of the FIG Anti-Doping Rules is provided for in its introduction.
The FIG Anti-Doping Rules specifically permit the FIG to delegate aspects of its anti-doping program to third parties. However, the FIG remains solely responsible for ensuring that these aspects are completed in compliance with the WADA Code. This means that the FIG is held accountable through the WADA Compliance Monitoring Programs, specifically through Compliance Audits (WADA Compliance).
The FIG has partnered with the International Testing Agency (ITA). The ITA is an organization that independently manages anti-doping programs for sporting organizations (ITA About Us). In addition, the ITA partners with anti-doping organizations with the aim of developing an anti-doping network (ITA Partners). The FIG has chosen to utilize all the services currently offered by the ITA (ITA Partnership ITA-FIG). This delegation includes doping control, education and results management. A detailed list of the aspects delegated to the ITA can be found on the ITA’s website.
As previously mentioned, the FIG has also delegated the relevant part of its results management to the CAS (art. 1 FIG CoD). Therefore, anti-doping cases are not heard before the GEF Disciplinary Commission. Instead, anti-doping cases are dealt with by the ITA and, pursuant to art. A1 Arbitration Rules CAS ADD, the first-instance authority is the CAS ADD. In that regard, the applicable procedural rules are that of the CAS ADD and not the FIG CoD (art. 1 FIG CoD). Consequently, the CAS ADD has the power to conduct proceedings and render decisions concerning alleged violations of the FIG Anti-Doping Rules (art. A2 Arbitration Rules CAS ADD). Decisions rendered by the CAS ADD may be appealed to the CAS Appeals divisions, unless art. A15 Arbitration Rules – CAS ADD is applicable (see for further details see the contribution of Steiner).
At FIG competitions, only the FIG has authority to conduct doping tests (art. 5.3.1 FIG Anti-Doping Rules). However, national anti-doping organisations may request authorisation from the FIG to conduct testing on athletes (art. 5.3.2 FIG Anti-Doping Rules).
At national events, in this case events organised by the FSG, the national anti-doping organisation will have authority to conduct doping tests (art. 5.3.1 FIG Anti-Doping Rules). Therefore, at gymnastic events in Switzerland, the SSI is generally the competent body to conduct anti-doping tests.
Pursuant to art. 5.2 FIG Statutes, Member Federations have the obligation to agree and fully comply with all FIG rules. Furthermore, the FIG Policy and P&P for Compliance and the FIG P&P for Safeguarding allow the GEF to seek temporary suspension of National Federations following an initial assessment of alleged breaches of FIG rules. Finally, the GEF Disciplinary Commission may impose sanctions for non-compliance in application of art. 34 FIG Statutes.
A key component of compliance is the adherence to the FIG’s safeguarding rules. Indeed, the welfare of gymnastic participants should be a priority for all National Federations. The P&P for Safeguarding, as in effect since 1 January 2019, creates several duties for National Federations aimed at ensuring that effective mechanisms exist to protect participants in gymnastics at the national level.
Pursuant to art. 6.3 P&P for Safeguarding, to fulfil its safeguarding duties, each National Federation is responsible for:
- «Developing and implementing a Policy and Procedures for safeguarding and protecting participants from harassment and abuse,
- Ensuring such policy and procedures are in line with the standards of FIG Policy and Procedures;
- Ensuring all participants in gymnastics are aware and adhere to the FIG Code of Conduct at FIG activities;
- Advising the FIG of any disciplinary sanction imposed by the NF relating to an incident that occurred at an FIG event that was dealt with by the NF.
- Informing the FIG on a ‘need to know’ basis of any temporary suspension or permanent exclusion of one of their members if it is reasonably believed that he/she could present a risk to participants in gymnastics outside the NF concerned. »
The FIG has developed guidelines, which can be found under the safeguarding section of the FIG’s website, with the aim of assisting the National Federations in fulfilling their safeguarding duties. In addition, the GEF has the mission, under its compliance responsibilities, to ensure that these duties are respected and abided to by the National Federations. As such, the GEF Compliance section often provides recommendations to National Federations to ensure that they are able to reach full compliance. The FIG rules allow for the GEF to impose various sanctions, including suspension and even potential exclusion of Member Federations for lack of compliance. However, the GEF’s structural aim remains that each National Federation reaches compliance, as it benefits and best protects all participants in gymnastics.
In order to deal with violations of FIG rules, the GEF has three areas of focus: safeguarding, disciplinary, and compliance.
The Safeguarding Section of the GEF is charged with the protection of participants in gymnastics from harassment and abuse (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4). This section confidentially receives reports of alleged abuse and harassment, which can be submitted through the GEF website, by phone or by email (GEF Annual Report 2021). The GEF then assesses the report to determine if there has been a potential breach of FIG rules (GEF Safeguarding). Depending on the results of this initial assessment, the GEF may open a formal investigation or dismiss the matter (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4). The investigation can lead to the opening of disciplinary proceedings (GEF Report, p. 4). In addition, the Safeguarding Section aims to assist National Federations in strengthening their policies and procedures regarding the safeguarding of participants in gymnastics (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 4).
The GEF Disciplinary Section carries out disciplinary proceedings, in line with FIG procedures, for alleged violations of FIG rules (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5). There are three potential levels of disciplinary proceedings. Firstly, the GEF Disciplinary Commission conducts proceedings in accordance with the FIG Code of Discipline (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5). These proceedings can include a further investigation, a request for statements from the parties and/or independent experts and a hearing (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 19). If a violation of FIG rules is proven by a balance of probabilities, sanctions will be imposed against the respondent (Art. 18 para. 5 FIG Code of Discipline; GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5). The Disciplinary Commission’s decisions may be appealed to the GEF Appeal Tribunal (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5). Subsequently, decisions rendered by the Appeal Tribunal may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5).
The GEF Compliance section ensures that the FIG is compliant with its own rules and regulations (GEF Compliance). In addition, it monitors the good governance of member federations and provides guidance (GEF Annual Report 2021, p. 5). Therefore, the GEF receives reports of potential violations of FIG rules and regulations and works to assist the parties into ensuring adherence to all relevant rules (GEF Compliance).
As previously mentioned, the GEF may only intervene when the national mechanisms are insufficient, if means of action at the national level have been exhausted, or if the National Federation itself is implicated in the issue under investigation. The GEF is not, however, an appeal body for disciplinary decisions taken at the national level. For this reason, it seeks through its work to build national capacity, to investigate and adjudicate appropriately and autonomously.
In March 2023, the GEF launched a new strategic framework («Gymnasts 2028»), which establishes the strategic priorities of the Foundation (GEF News). Gymnasts 2028 guides the GEF’s application of the FIG’s regulatory framework so as to ensure a human-centric approach to its work (Gymnasts 2028). This holistic view of the gymnastics ecosystem ensures that the GEF takes all gymnastic stakeholders into consideration in appropriately assessing the impact of its operations (GEF About).