Investigation: 368 Gymnasts Have Alleged Sexual Abuse By Coaches and Adults
This abuse scandal will be detrimental to the world of gymnastics.
An intense nine-month investigation by the IndyStar reveals that at least 368 child gymnasts have alleged sexual assault over the past 20 years nationwide. The accused include 115 coaches, gym owners, and other adults the children worked and trained with during their gymnastics career.
According to NPR, earlier this year the newspaper reported that USA Gymnastics had ignored complaints about predatory coaches and did not report allegations to law enforcement. Since then, the investigation has focused primarily on the patterns of sexual abuse involving USA Gymnastics, the country's largest gymnastics organization that also selects U.S. Olympic teams among other things. (Read: Penn State Gymnasts Confess to Being Emotionally Abused and Body Shamed By Coaches)
The allegations involved coaches who took pictures of 6-year-olds without clothing, a coach who reportedly engaged in sexual behaviors with a 14-year-old every day, and former coach Jeffery Bettman who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges earlier this year.
Betteman was labeled "a predator in the truest sense of the word" and sentenced to 25 years in prison after he was charged for taking 469 videos of 49 young gymnasts using secret cameras in locker rooms. Though he had been fired from several gyms for "creepy behavior," USA Gymnastics allowed him to keep his coaching certificate. And he wasn't the only one.
IndyStar's investigation found that several accusers were moved from "gym to gym" without losing their jobs and continued to teach young girls under the protection of USA Gymnastics.
"We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career," the organization said in a statement to the newspaper.
Another representative to speak for USA Gymnastics was former president Mike Jackie. He suggested that athletes usually hold their silence about such controversial matters because they don't want to ruin their chances of making it to the Olympics. "There's paranoia at all levels," he said. "It's hard to take a stand."
You can read the full IndyStar report here.