USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse: Organization Ignored Reports Of Sexual Abuse Against Coaches For Years

USA Gymnastics is under fire for allegedly not taking seriously the allegations of sex abuse by coaches until years later. The sex abuse scandal came to light due to an investigation by the Indianapolis Star. The Indianapolis Star stumbled on to the fact that USA Gymnastics had been turning a blind eye to sex abuse while they were investigating the sex abuse reporting practices of daycares and schools.

In Georgia, a lawsuit was filed in 2013 by the daughter of Lisa Ganser, who is alleging that she was a sex abuse victim of her coach. The Indianapolis Star stepped in and is requesting a judge to release the records of sex abuse complaints that have been filed with USA Gymnastics. It is stated that 50 coaches have been accused of sex abuse against gymnastic athletes. A lawsuit filed in 2013 by a victim of sexual abuse against her gymnastics coach revealed that officials of USA Gymnastics did not take the allegations seriously and essentially swept them under the carpet. Ganser commented on the failure of USA Gymnastics.

“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 happen to other little girls.”

USA Gymnastic is the organization that oversees the entire gymnastic industry in the United States. Not only are they the ones who decide which gymnast will compete in the Olympics for the United States, but they are responsible for 121,000 athletes nationwide.

What did USA Gymnastics do with all of the claims of sex abuse against its coaches? USA Gymnastics took the reports and kept them in a drawer at their main office in Indianapolis. Those records have not yet seen the light of day. The investigation by the Indianapolis Star was able to isolate four cases, in which reports state that 14 gymnasts, who were minors, had been victims of sex abuse.

Marvin Sharp had a complaint brought up against up by a 12-year-old gymnast in 2011. In 2010, Sharp was given the honor of being named national Women’s Coach of the Year. It took USA Gymnastics four years to alert police to potential abuse against the athletes, and that was only after another complaint was filed with the organization against Sharp. The complaint that led USA Gymnastics to report Sharp stated that the coach touched and shaved the vagina of one of his gymnasts and took inappropriate pictures of the gymnast. Shortly after Marvin Sharp was found guilty and sent to prison, he killed himself.

Sharp was not the only one in which the gymnastic organization protected for years. Mark Schiefelbein, James Bell, and William McCabe all had files of sexual abuse accusations against them. Schiefelbein was accused of inserting one his fingers into one of his 10-year-old gymnasts and photographing her vagina so “he would know where not to touch her.” He was sentenced to 36-years in prison in 2003.

James Bell was not investigated for five years. He was finally arrested in 2003 when he was found guilty of abusing three of his gymnasts in Rhode Island. The girls that he molested were minors as well. Last year, Bell was sentenced to eight years in prison when he was found guilty on three counts of molesting a child.

William McCabe had complaints against him going back to 1998. His actions were so severe that the owner of one of the gyms where McCabe and his gymnasts practiced told USA Gymnastics that he “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” McCabe was found guilty of exploiting children in 2006. He was sentenced to 30-years in prison.

The president of USA Gymnastics released a statement concerning the sex abuse scandal.

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.”

How do you think USA Gymnastics should be punished?

[Image Via AP Photo/Julio Cortez]