By Emily Goddard

Natalia Kuzmina suggests FIG is trying to discredit rhythmic gymnastics as an Olympic sportAugust 22 - Natalia Kuzmina, President of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Technical Committee, has claimed there is an ulterior motive behind the recent spate of disciplinary action against officials in the discipline as the sport's world governing body "is trying to discredit rhythmic gymnastics from the list of Olympic sports".

Speaking to insidethegames, the Russian who was elected in October last year to cover the current Olympic cycle claimed everyone is "appalled" at how the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has treated senior figures in the discipline, including how it launched action against attendees at a series of judges' courses based on "unproven and ill-grounded allegations".

"Everybody is appalled by the FIG action because the allegations were not based on anything," Kuzmina said.

"FIG put forward ungrounded accusations against people who devoted all their life to sport and they were accused of crimes they did not commit and the work of the Technical Committee was disrupted.

"The Disciplinary Committee found no fault and discharged all claims.

"Then FIG filed an appeal against some of the judges and the tribunal dismissed the appeal.

"We don't see the logic behind it, we don't understand why.

"The case against the technical committee is still ongoing.

"It seems that due to, perhaps, some personal preferences, FIG management is trying to discredit rhythmic gymnastics from the list of Olympic sports.

"Otherwise how one can explain generation of such negative publicity based on the ungrounded accusations."

André Gueisbuhler described the appeals tribunal ruling as "bad news"André Gueisbuhler described the appeals tribunal ruling as "bad news"

Following the appeal tribunal's decision last week to dismiss the FIG's appeal aimed at sanctioning the rhythmic gymnastics judges and cancelling their brevets, an official communication signed by FIG secretary general André Gueisbuhler described the ruling as "bad news".

His remarks - described as "a clear demonstration of his dismissive and one-sided attitude and a complete disregard and disrespect of the FIG's own legal bodies" - have sparked a bitter war of words and 16 internationally recognised judges have now written a letter to FIG President Bruno Grandi demanding a public apology.

"We deserve such an apology because of our hard work and dedication," read a statement.

"We urge Mr Gueisbuhler to stop witch hunting and focus on his direct responsibilities of promoting our beloved sport for the benefit of current and future generations of athletes, coaches and judges.

"Mr Gueisbuhler shall find better ways of justifying his huge salary than making disparaging and sarcastic remarks with respect to the decision of the highest legal authority of the FIG.

"From our side, we will continue to promote rhythmic gymnastics as a beautiful and challenging sport for hard-working individuals from all backgrounds."

Kuzmina also raises concerns about this year's World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, due to take place in Kiev from August 28 to September 1.

Natalia Kuzmina promises to "fight for justice and to protect our honour"Natalia Kuzmina promises to "fight for justice and to protect our honour"

"With the Technical Committee officials suspended they cannot perform their duties," she told insidethegames.

"People who first of all were not elected as FIG officials by the Congress are running the preparation, which raises a lot of questions about whether they will be able to do the things that the Technical Committee normally does.

"Going, looking at the rooms, checking how well the public transport works, how the facilities are functioning to ensure that all the athletes are comfortable and can devote all their attention the competition.

"It disrespects the rules of the Federation and it's a technical problem.

"How well are the World Championships going to be prepared?"

Kuzmina added that she and her peers will not stop fighting to clear their names.

"We hope justice will prevail," she said.

"We will fight for justice and to protect our honour.

"We will do all we can to keep rhythmic gymnastics as an Olympic sport."

FIG was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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