USA Gymnastics Accused of Turning Blind Eye to Sexual Abuse of Young Athletes

A gymnast practices on the balance beam of the women's Artistic gymnastics on August 4, 2016 ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro

Even as the Olympic Games launch in Rio de Janeiro tonight, fresh allegations that America’s biggest gymnastics organization has not done enough to investigate charges of the sexual abuse of young athletes by officials and coaches make headlines.

A new expose by the Indianapolis Star alleges that a long list of cases of abuse of young gymnasts–many or whom are teenaged girls–have gone under-investigated by USA Gymnastics, a nationwide organization with over 120,000 members that serves as a sort of farm team-like organization for Olympic gymnasts in the U.S.

The paper alleges that the gymnast organization has “routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations as hearsay” unless the accusations come directly from a victim, meaning stories and warnings of abuse are ignored unless there is a major, straight-forward allegation made.

Some legal experts have apparently warned hat such a policy is not the optimal way of uncovering abuse as many victims are afraid to come forward.

One lawsuit filed in 2013 criticized the process by saying that USA Gymnastics had enough warnings to stop the abuse of one young female gymnast but did little to address the situation until it was well underway.

“USAG failed at this,” the mother of an abused gymnast, Lisa Ganser, said in her court filing. “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.”

Ganser’s case is far from the only such case of alleged abuse. The article lists a series of other complaints and charges many of which USA Gymnastics is alleged to have waited too long before trying to intervene.

The paper reported that USA Gymnastics has dossiers on up to 50 cases of coaches abusing their minor-aged athletes even as the group has refused to release details. Court papers have been filed to force the group to divulge the information, though no ruling has been handed down yet.

For his part Steve Perry, president of USA Gymnastics, released a statement essentially defending his organization’s practices.

“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,” Perry told the paper. “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.”

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