Tri-City Gymnastics Club featured in alleged abuse lawsuit


Amelia Cline, the named complainant, claims she was sexually, physically and emotionally abused by two coaches at the Tri-City facility.

Warning: The details of this story may disturb some readers. Discretion is advised.

Amelia Cline was a gymnast who competed at high levels in the sport for nearly 10 years.

She started at six, joined the Omega Gymnastics Sports Club in Coquitlam at nine, but quit at 14, alleging she and several other teammates were abused by a pair of coaches who joined the program Tri-City – sexually, physically and emotionally.

As a result, Cline and no less than 20 members to date are suing Gymnastics Canada, Gymnastics BC and five other provincial bodies, claiming lasting physical and psychological damages.

The proposed 32-page class action lawsuit was filed today (May 11) in the Supreme Court of British Columbia and makes several claims of abuse between now and as far back as 1978.

“The defendants caused or contributed to the abuse of gymnasts by creating a culture and environment where abuse could occur, and by failing to take appropriate steps to protect the athletes in their care and control, many of whom were children when the abuse took place,” the statement said, adding that gymnastics coaches often spend long hours together in practice, practice and competition.

“[…] and a coach will often exert significant influence and control over a gymnast’s life, both inside and outside the gymnasium. Often, parents of underage gymnasts are barred from attending practices and other gymnastics-related events, leaving the athletes vulnerable and in the complete care and control of their coaches and other coaching staff.”

The lawsuit comes after dozens of current and retired gymnasts wrote an open letter to Sport Canada about abuse in their sport.

Contact “inappropriate”, “screams” and “humiliation”

The report says Cline was coached by Vladimir and Svetlana Lashin at Omega after joining the gym in the summer of 2000 for its elite-level programs “under the direction and at the request of Gymnastics Canada.”

However, the claim says Cline and other athletes were allegedly abused on a daily basis and estimates that up to 60 gymnasts were enrolled in elite classes.

Cline alleges that due to the abuse she suffered during training, she continues to suffer numerous physical and psychological harms and injuries.

The complaint alleges that the Lashins verbally abused Cline and others through public scolding, yelling and humiliation, bullying and body-shaming, as well as examples of ignoring athletes by not spotting them during practice or competition.

Other alleged conduct listed in the legal documents includes:

  • Inappropriate physical contact…
    • Running athletes in Vladimir’s arms and riding his waist
    • The combinations of Svetlana hiking athletes are higher on the legs, hips and buttocks, revealing the inner thighs and buttocks

  • Hyper extension of the knees by seated strength trainers on them
  • Over-conditioning and “forced” over-stretching
  • Forcing athletes to perform skills while injured
  • Forcing athletes to perform skills beyond their abilities

The most important part of Cline’s claim was her hamstring injury from forced stretching – a common practice in sports that would “bring us to tears and pain so much”, she said. The Canadian Press.

It happened when she was 12.

“[Vladimir] said something like ‘Oh, you’re just pretending.’ He often did this couple stretch where I stood in front of him, he grabbed my leg from behind and pulled it up so I was standing,” the 32-year-old said, noting her hamstrings were already in pain. That day.

“He grabbed my leg and with more force than he normally would, he just pulled my leg behind my ear. And when he did that, it broke my hamstrings and took away part of my pelvis with.”

Cline said she was diagnosed with an avulsion fracture, where a small piece of bone tears, in her pelvis.

She finally quit gymnastics at age 14 after Vladimir allegedly yelled at her after several events at the BC Provincial Championships.

The report claims that Cline was “forced” to compete on vault, bars and beam, and continued to injure herself after each struggle, to which Vladimir allegedly said it was because she was ” too heavy”.

She weighed 80 pounds, the claim adds.

Promoted coaches

Cline and her parents then forwarded the allegations to Gymnastics BC and Sport BC’s harassment officer, but the report claims they were dismissed.

In the years that followed, the Lashins were promoted and honored within the ranks of Gymnastics Canada.

Vladimir was the head coach of the Canadian Olympic gymnastics team at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

He was also named National Coach and High Performance Director for Women’s Artistic Gymnastics from June 2009 to June 2010.

Vladimir and Svetlana were also named National Coaches of the Year by Gymnastics BC in 2008.

“Nightmares”, “panic attacks” and “chronic” pain

Cline also claims that she endured psychological and emotional stress as a result of the Lashins’ alleged abuse.

Some of the injuries claim to include recurring nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, “unintentional hair pulling” and other “harmful coping mechanisms”.

Cline claims permanent physical damage such as persistent back and neck injuries, “chronic” back and neck pain such as compression fractures and headaches, hyper-strained knees and fingers and toes broken.

The claim states that she is about to continue undergoing treatment and therapy, that she “suffered loss of wages” and “earning potential” and “incurred personal expenses resulting from or related to the abuse and injury”.

The action seeks unspecified punitive and aggravated damages for Cline on behalf of the other class members, past and future costs of health care services, and an order directing Gymnastics Canada and provincial bodies to implement , to apply and follow appropriate governance procedures to prioritize the physical and psychological health of gymnasts.

Cassidy Janzen, another member of the class, trained at Omega in Coquitlam between the ages of 6 and 11.

She quit the sport after breaking her leg in a fall from the balance beam, saying she was forced to do a skill she didn’t land, and her pleas for more padding on the beam went unheeded. She suffered two spiral fractures to her tibia and one to her fibula in the fall.

“From the second you walk in [the gym] they tell you to trust them blindly, basically, and they say, “If I can say you can do something, that means you can do it,” Janzen said. “They ran their gym out of fear.”

The 26-year-old recently started therapy for emotional issues which she says stemmed from this “blind trust” in a coach.

“The formative years I was there, I learned not to defend myself, not to say anything that could rock the boat,” she said.

“I’m a very non-confrontational person now.”

None of the above allegations have been proven in court.

Defendants have three weeks (21 days) to respond to claims.

Omega Gymnastics Sports Club closed permanently at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. His facility was located at 125B Glacier St. in the Mayfair neighborhood of Coquitlam.

– with files from The Canadian Press


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