Olympic legend Sir Matthew Pinsent has been left stunned by the treatment of young gymnasts in Beijing.
Pinsent travelled to China for BBC Radio Five Live
The four-times gold medallist assessed China's preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games for BBC Radio Five Live.
Pinsent, who described children in pain while training and claimed a boy had been beaten by his coach, said: "It was a pretty disturbing experience."
Olympic officials said it would be inappropriate to comment on "third hand" remarks at this stage.
"It is important that on this important issue, people do not jump to conclusions, but make judgements on clear facts.
"It would be inappropriate to comment on Matthew Pinsent's remarks which the IOC has only heard third hand and understands are more a personal interpretation," said International Olympic Committee communications director Giselle Davies.
Pinsent, a former IOC and current British Olympic Association member, felt children were being pushed beyond acceptable limits in pursuit of excellence.
He was disappointed that it appeared to be regarded as necessary.
Pinsent said: "I know it is gymnastics and that sport has to start its athletes young, but I have to say I was really shocked.
"I was wondering whether the western approach compared to the eastern approach is a bit different, but I do think those kids are being abused.
"When I talked to the vice-principals, they said hitting was against the law, but then there were parents who want you to do it.
"They said this is what they needed to do to make them hard."
The choice of Beijing to host the Games has been condemned in some quarters because of the country's poor human rights record.
Only three days ago the IOC's medical commission published guidelines on the training of elite child athletes.
Davies added that last week a group of international journalists had spoken to athletes, including gymnasts, at Beijing's national training centre and had been "very impressed with the people they met and the training they saw".
The International Gymnastics Federation has also promised to raise the issue with China's gymnastics officials during the World Championships in Melbourne later this month.