MONTREAL: They excelled in the athletic spotlight, but their feats on the beam and bars masked a darker reality: Canadian gymnasts are taking legal action to denounce a “toxic” culture of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by the sport’s top brass. Having tolerated the harm for decades, victims around the world have come forward in the wake of a US gymnastics scandal that broke in 2015 before spreading abroad, including to Britain where athletes launched a similar legal action last year. As a child gymnast in Vancouver, Amelia Cline dreamed of Olympic glory. In her teens, the elite athlete devoted thirty hours a week to training. “Unfortunately the early years of my gymnastics days, as positive as they were, they’ve been somewhat wiped out by those last three years that were so brutal,” the former gymnast, now 32, said. She and other athletes on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Gymnastics Canada and several provincial federations for tolerating a climate of abuse and mistreatment for decades. “The lawsuit is essentially designed to hopefully hold these institutions accountable for systemic psychological, emotional, physical and sexual violence,” she said. At the end of March, a group of more than 70 present and former gymnasts published an open letter to Sports Canada denouncing a “toxic culture and abusive practices that persist within Canadian gymnastics.” The number of signatories has since grown to more than 400, with the group calling for an independent investigation to shed light on the sport’s problems. The “general public really doesn’t understand the magnitude of the abuses that are occurring at the gyms,” said Kim Shore, a former gymnast and spokeswoman for Gymnast For Change Canada, who says her daughter has also suffered mistreatment in the sport. Micheline Calmy-Rey, president of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation created in 2019 in response to the scandal said “it seems logical to us that an independent investigation be conducted.” Gymnastics Canada on Thursday said the allegations in the lawsuit “describe behaviour that is unacceptable in any sport environment, and we take them very seriously.” ‘Grilled about my weight’: In a blog post, Cline says that at 14, she weighed 85 pounds (38.5 kg) and was “grilled about my weight on a weekly basis.” Some 20 years after giving up gymnastics, she says she still suffers from the “long-term effects” of mistreatment that left her with chronic pain and made it hard for her to maintain healthy eating habits. Like many of her peers, she laments a “culture of fear and silence” in gymnastics clubs across the country. “You don’t question what (the coaches) are doing. They’re the experts, and they’re the ones who are going to take you to the Olympics,” she explained.