Rio 2016 USA Gymnastics Team Learns Of Sexual Abuse Scandal, ‘It’s A Distraction’

USA Gymnastics, the organization in charge of all gymnastics in the country, has come under fire recently when their mishandling of sexual abuse cases came to light.

In an investigation conducted by IndyStar, which is a part of the USA Today network, it was discovered that USA Gymnastics received many reports of sexual abuse involving coaches employed by them, but few complaints were actually acted on.

As a result of USA Gymnastics ignorant handling of the sexual abuse cases, many children were hurt by coaches that the organization had previously received multiple warnings about.

USA Gymnastics defended the handling of the abuse cases by explaining – under oath – that they only ever take action on sexual abuse complaints when they come from the child victim or the parent of the victim. They explained, according to the New York Post, that they saw all other allegations as hearsay.

Instead of investigating any third party warnings, even if those warnings came from former employees, they dismissed them as little more than rumors.

IndyStar cited five specific instances where USA Gymnastics’ failure to act allowed multiple children to be victimized after they were warned of the predator in question.

Mark Schiefelbein was a coach working with USA Gymnastics. There were many complaints pressed against him to the organization, but he wasn’t charged until 2002. It came to the court’s attention that he had molested many girls over his time coaching, but USA Gymnastics refused to cooperate with the court until records of the complaints were directly subpoenaed.

Another coach was arrested in 2003 after he molested three girls in Rhode Island. James Bell also had a thick file of complaints on record with USA Gymnastics.

Former coach William McCabe plead guilty in 2006 to sexual exploitation after having spent the majority of his time with USA Gymnastics molesting girls and posting naked pictures of the children online. USA Gymnastics was warned by a gym owner in 1998 that McCabe was likely to rape someone.

Finally, in 2013, a lawsuit was filed by a victim of abuse. It came out in that lawsuit that USA Gymnastics was warned about the coach previously, seven years earlier. Altogether USA Gymnastics received four independent warnings about the coach and dismissed every one of them.

“[USA Gymnastics] failed at this,” Lisa Ganser, mother of the victim pressing charges in the 2013 case that’s still going on, told IndyStar. “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.”

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USA Gymnastics’ CEO Steve Penny responded to the allegations through an e-mail to TIME.

“It is heartbreaking and unacceptable for a young person to have the intolerable burden that results from being a victim of sexual misconduct. We share the outrage that sexual assault victims and their families feel. This is why USA Gymnastics has implemented Safe Sport training and created educational materials that encourage members to contact law enforcement first when reporting incidents of abuse.”

News of the sexual abuse allegations reached the USA gymnastics team in Rio this weekend. The gymnasts expressed horror and concern over what they’d learned about the organization that controls their beloved sport in the USA. Their coach, however, was a touch less concerned.

“We try to keep the kids away from that right now for this moment,” U.S. gymnastics team coach Mihai Brestyan told TIME after the team’s first training session in Rio. “We have concerns, but we are here to do the best we can. It’s a distraction and I don’t understand why [it came out] now.”

[Photo by innovatedcaptures/iStock]