USA Gymnastics Reportedly Ignored Claims of Sexual Abuse
With the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympic Games tonight, you're only days away from watching Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and the rest of the amazing gymnasts on Team USA go for the gold. (Read up on the 8 Need-to-Know Facts About the Rio-Bound U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team.) And while we couldn't be more pumped to see them in their blinged-out leotards, there's a dark cloud hanging over USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport and the group that puts together the Olympic team. The IndyStar published an investigative story yesterday alleging USA Gymnastics turned its back on dozens of claims that coaches sexually abused young athletes.
The paper reports that apparently, it was USA Gymnastics' policy to basically ignore any sexual abuse allegations unless they came directly from a victim or a victim's parent. So unless the organization heard it straight from the (likely very distraught) source, they considered the complaints hearsay. (BTW, the organization's home state of Indiana only requires a "reason to believe" abuse has occurred for a complaint to be reported.) That means anyone-victim or not-has a duty to report any inkling of child abuse.
Over the years, the organization essentially dumped dozens of complaints against coaches into a drawer at their Indianapolis headquarters. According to the IndyStar, there were complaint files for more than 50 coaches during a 10-year span from 1996 to 2006, and it's unknown how many more complaints came in after 2006. Those files have not been released yet, but reporters at the IndyStar did track down a few cases on their own. They were able to confirm USA Gymnastics was made aware of four problematic coaches and chose not to report them to authorities, which gave the coaches free rein to allegedly continue abusing 14 more athletes. In one instance, a gym owner wrote a letter directly to USA Gymnastics sharing the grotesque reasons why one of these coaches should be removed from his position, but that wasn't enough to permanently ban the coach from the sport. In fact, USA Gymnastics continued to renew the coach's membership, which allowed him to coach young girls for seven more years. It wasn't until a parent saw nude photos emailed to her 11-year-old daughter that the FBI got involved and the coach was put behind bars with a 30-year sentence.
Unfortunately, this is just one of what's sure to be an alarming number of child abuse stories that come to light now from former and current gymnasts. We'll be rooting for justice to be served. In the meantime, check out the full article for more details on this alarming discovery.