A new investigative report by The Indianapolis Star revealed even more abuse by USA gymnastics affiliated personnel. The report gave details on at least 368 gymnasts alleged sexual assault or exploitation by USA Gymnastics coaches as well as other adults. Most noteworthy, the reported abuse occurred over the course of two decades with little to no intervention by officials.
Released mid-December, the report is the product of a nine-month investigation by the newspaper. It comes as a result of an earlier August report detailing how the national organization’s leaders failed to alert the appropriate authorities following sexual abuse accusations against coaches.
USA Gymnastics was quick to respond to the allegations against their organization. They countered with an emphasis on internal policies that run opposite of those findings. Because such policies “mandate that when anyone affiliated with USA Gymnastics or member clubs suspect potential abuse, the appropriate legal authorities should be notified.”
Hundreds of Sexual Abuse Allegations
Research by the newspaper’s investigators uncovered hundreds of damning police and court documents in addition to testimony by former gymnasts. Those documents revealed systematic and widespread abuse across the country:
“At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That’s a rate of one every 20 days. And it’s likely an undercount. …
“All told, 115 adults at every level of the sport, from respected Olympic mentors to novices working with recreational gymnasts, were accused. The alleged abuse happened in every part of the U.S. — from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, and across the Midwest. …
“Other victims included casual athletes and elite-level performers such as Olympians. They were teenagers and preteens. The youngest was 6. Almost all of them were girls.”
USA Gymnastics Response
In a response statement by Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics board of directors, the organization emphasized their commitment to protecting young athletes. Claims that appear to run opposite of the findings. “Addressing instances of sexual misconduct has been a top priority for USA Gymnastics for years, and we are wholly committed to promoting a safe environment for athletes. We work every day to strengthen our processes, policies, and procedures in this critical area.”
Yet such assurances appear too little, too late. This latest report comes after a series of filed lawsuits against doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar was a former long time, 20+ years, doctor for the organization, alleging sexual assault. A lawsuit bolstered by the unveiling of a Go Pro containing video of Nassar allegedly molesting girls in a pool. This is in addition to other instances of child porn.
USA Gymnastics does appear to be taking some of these issues to heart. They are calling on former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels to lead an independent review. The goal of the review is to improve and strengthen the governing body’s policies and procedures on safety. A separate review panel will then review the results and implement the recommendations and policy changes as needed.