Has sex abuse been ignored by officials of the USA Gymnastics organization? A shocking report published by the Indianapolis Star on Thursday (August 4) alleged that officials had routinely ignored warnings of coaches sexually abusing the gymnasts and failed to alert authorities.
Indy Star reporters Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia, and Tim Evans uncovered the unsettling truth of what was going on behind closed doors at the prestigious national organization as a part of an Indy Star investigation.
The Indy Star investigation revealed a case of a young female athlete in Georgia who was preyed on sexually by a gymnastics coach for seven years. The USA Gymnastics organization dismissed the first four warnings about the coach regarding sex abuse.
More and more cases made their way to the surface as the reporters dug deeper. In 2013 a lawsuit was filed by a victim of sex abuse at the hands of her gymnastics coach. Two former USA Gymnastics officials admitted under oath that the organization’s policy was to dismiss sex abuse allegations as hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parent.
Laws in all other states require people to report suspected child abuse. This one young gymnast’s mother, Lisa Ganser, filed the lawsuit in Georgia against the organization because she felt it had failed them.
“USAG failed at this. USA Gymnastics had enough information, I think, to have done something about this. It didn’t have to happen to my daughter, and it didn’t have to have to other little girls.”
The USA Gymnastics organization includes more than 121,000 athletes and has over 3,000 gyms. The organization deems itself as a “big time brand” and works with major sponsors on some multi-million dollar deals.
Indy Star filed a motion to make files available to the public which allegedly includes a compilation of complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches.
The reporters uncovered four separate instances in which USA Gymnastics did not report coaches to the authorities after receiving warnings about suspect sex abuse.
“Those coaches went on, according to police and court records, to abuse at least 14 underage gymnasts after the warnings.”
The organization responded to Indy Star‘s report by stating that they follow all the laws reporting sex abuse and that they are doing “enough” to protect children. Although, clearly they are not doing enough if sex abuse is still going unreported and continues to happen within their organization.
Indy Star attempted to speak with the USA Gymnastics president, Steve Penny, but he declined to be interviewed. He claimed it was due to privacy issues regarding an ongoing lawsuit; however, he did release this statement to the public:
“USA Gymnastics has a long and proactive history of developing policy to protect its athletes and will remain diligent in evaluating new and best practices which should be implemented. We recognize our leadership role is important and remain committed to working with the entire gymnastics community and other important partners to promote a safe and fun environment for children.”
USA Gymnastics cited that the reason for the organization’s practice to only acknowledge sex abuse claims from the victim or the victim’s parents was due to the fact that the coach’s reputation could potentially be damaged if the allegations turned out not to be true.
USA Gymnastics does not seem to be concerned enough that these allegations actually are true.
A former gym owner, Dan Dickey, wrote a letter to the organization in 1998 complaining about a coach for USA Gymnastics, specifically citing child sex abuse.
“In my opinion, this person has no right to be working with children, and should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.”
Sex abuse has gone ignored by the USA Gymnastics organization for decades, but thanks to the reporting of the four Indie Star investigative writers, the organization’s lack of taking responsibility to prevent the sex abuse from happening is being brought to the surface. The USA Gymnastics organization will be forced to respond and take action accordingly.
[Photo by Vladimir Rys/Staff/Getty Images]