How USA Gymnastics protected coaches over kids

Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by The Wrong Guy, Aug 4, 2016.

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  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    How USA Gymnastics protected coaches over kids

    Published by IndyStar on August 4, 2016

    USA Gymnastics compiled sex abuse complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer in its executive office in Indianapolis. The contents of those files remain secret, hidden under court seal.

    Out of balance: How USA Gymnastics protected coaches over kids

    The prominent Olympic organization failed to alert authorities to many allegations of sexual abuse by coaches.

    By Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans, The Indianapolis Star, August 4, 2016


    Top executives at one of America’s most prominent Olympic organizations failed to alert authorities to many allegations of sexual abuse by coaches — relying on a policy that enabled predators to abuse gymnasts long after USA Gymnastics had received warnings.

    An IndyStar investigation uncovered multiple examples of children suffering the consequences, including a Georgia case in which a coach preyed on young female athletes for seven years after USA Gymnastics dismissed the first of four warnings about him.

    In a 2013 lawsuit filed by one of that coach’s victims, two former USA Gymnastics officials admitted under oath that the organization routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations as hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parent.

    Legal experts and child advocates expressed alarm about that approach, saying the best practice is to report every allegation to authorities. Laws in every state require people to report suspected child abuse.

    “USAG failed at this,” said Lisa Ganser, whose daughter filed the Georgia lawsuit, which is still being argued. “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 Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, develops the U.S. Olympic team and promotes the industry at all levels. Its members include more than 121,000 athletes and 3,000 gyms. The organization touts itself as a “big time brand” with sponsors such as AT&T and Hershey’s. After the Rio Olympics, which start this week, its premier athletes will be showcased on a 36-city Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, a one-two punch of publicity that typically prompts a membership surge at gyms.

    USA Gymnastics would not disclose the total number of sexual misconduct allegations it receives each year. But records show the organization compiled complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer in its executive office in Indianapolis. The contents of those files remain secret, hidden under seal in the case filed by Ganser’s daughter. IndyStar, as part of the USA TODAY Network, filed a motion seeking to make the files public. The judge in that case has not yet ruled.

    But even without access to those files, IndyStar tracked down four cases in which USA Gymnastics was warned of suspected abuse by coaches but did not initiate a report to authorities.

    Those coaches went on, according to police and court records, to abuse at least 14 underage gymnasts after the warnings:

    • USA Gymnastics received a detailed complaint in 2011 about Marvin Sharp, who was named 2010 national Women’s Coach of the Year. It described inappropriate touching of minors and warned that he shouldn’t be around children. Four years later, USA Gymnastics reported Sharp to police — but only after it was confronted with another disturbing allegation about him. This one led to Sharp being accused of touching a gymnast’s vagina, trimming her pubic hair and taking sexually explicit pictures of her beginning when she was 12 years old. Shortly after he was charged in federal court in Indianapolis last year, he killed himself in jail.
    • USA Gymnastics had compiled a thick file of complaints about coach Mark Schiefelbein years before he was charged with molesting a Tennessee girl when she was 10 years old. The girl’s family contacted police in 2002. Schiefelbein penetrated her with his finger multiple times, according to police records. He also videotaped her exposed vagina for what he called “training purposes, so he would know where not to touch her.” The girl’s family was shocked to discover the history of complaints against Schiefelbein, which came to light only after prosecutors subpoenaed records from USA Gymnastics. A jury in Williamson County, Tennessee, convicted him in 2003 of seven counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. He is serving a 36-year prison sentence.
    • USA Gymnastics had a sexual misconduct complaint file on James Bell at least five years before his 2003 arrest for molesting three young gymnasts in Rhode Island. It’s unclear what allegations were contained in that file. But IndyStar found prior police reports on Bell in Oregon. In 1990, an underage gymnast told police that Bell had climbed on top of her and told her he wanted to take off her pants. In 1991, a 10-year-old gymnast said Bell stuck his hand inside her shirt and pinched her breast. Bell wasn't charged and continued coaching until his former employer reported him to police in Middletown, Rhode Island. He went on the run in 2004 and wasn’t rearrested until last year. Bell pleaded guilty in December in Newport County, Rhode Island, to three counts of child molestation and is serving eight years in prison.
    • USA Gymnastics received at least four complaints about coach William McCabe as early as 1998. One gym owner warned the organization in 1998 that McCabe “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” USA Gymnastics never reported the allegations to police and, according to federal authorities, he began molesting an underage girl in 1999. McCabe continued to coach children for nearly seven more years, until Lisa Ganser went to the FBI with concerns about emails to her then-11-year-old daughter. McCabe was charged with molesting gymnasts, secretly videotaping girls changing clothes and posting their naked pictures on the internet. He pleaded guilty in 2006 in Savannah, Georgia, to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements. He is serving a 30-year sentence.
    USA Gymnastics, in response to questions from IndyStar, defended its handling of child abuse complaints. It said it follows reporting laws and is doing enough to protect children.

    Steve Penny, the organization’s president, declined to be interviewed, citing privacy issues of those involved and the ongoing lawsuit in the McCabe case. But he released this statement: “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.”

    The organization describes its member coaches and gyms as the “gold standard … a distinction that parents look for and depend upon.”

    Yet the internal policies uncovered by IndyStar leave some with a different impression.

    Continued here:

    USA Gymnastics routinely ignored warnings of sexual abuse by coaches, report alleges | The Washington Post


    A stunning, detailed investigation published Thursday by the Indianapolis Star found that USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in this country, did little to investigate numerous claims of sexual abuse levied against gymnastics coaches across the country, routinely dismissing the allegations as hearsay “unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parent” because of fears that the allegations would damage the reputations of the coaches in question.

    This approach runs counter to best practices when dealing with reports of sexual abuse against minors and is possibly illegal, as every state in the country has a law requiring people to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor to authorities. But instead of investigating or reporting the allegations, USA Gymnastics routinely filed them away.

    Continued here:
  2. The Wrong Guy Member

  3. The Wrong Guy Member

    Former USA Gymnastics president arrested on charge of evidence tampering in Larry Nassar case | CNN


    The former head of USA Gymnastics was arrested and accused of removing documents linked to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case from the Karolyi Ranch gymnastics training facilityin Texas, authorities said.

    Steve Penny was arrested Wednesday, nearly three weeks after he was indicted by a grand jury for tampering with evidence, the Walker County District Attorney's office said.

    He was detained after US Marshals tracked him to a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He is being held at the Sevier County Jail while awaiting extradition to Walker County, Texas.

    The indictment claims Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County, Texas with "the purpose of impairing the ongoing investigation by destroying or hiding the documents," after he learned an investigation was underway, the Walker County District Attorney's office said.

    Authorities claim the documents were later delivered to Penny at the USAG headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The records are currently missing.

    The documents would have helped law enforcement investigate Nassar and would have "assisted with the investigation of other offenses that may have occurred at the Karolyi Ranch," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

    The training center, a 2,000-acre compound about 70 miles north of Houston, is run by longtime gymnastics coaches Martha and Bela Karolyi.It became the US Women's National Team Training Center in 2001 and a US Olympic Training Site in 2011 -- during many of the same years Nassar was the national team doctor.

    USA Gymnastics agreed to buy the Karolyi Ranch in 2016 after leasing the center for years but decided not to proceed with the purchase, citing a number of reasons including"unexpected financial expenditures."Earlier this year, the organization cut ties with the facility after several gymnasts, including Simone Biles -- one of the sport's most accomplished stars -- saidthey wereabused by Nassar at the center.


    If convicted of the third-degree felony charge, Penny could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

    More at
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