As the summer Olympic Games are getting underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, USA Gymnastics has come under fire for allegedly failing to report dozens of sexual abuse allegations.
The Indianapolis Star released an investigative report that revealed USAG officials repeatedly ignored reports of sex abuse over the course of several years.
In a 2013 lawsuit, former officials for the organization admitted to the claims and said such accusations were considered “hearsay” unless brought forth by a victim or the victim’s parents.
“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,” said the mother of one of the alleged victims.
The organization reportedly stored complaints against more than 50 coaches in a draw at its Indianapolis headquarters.
USAG develops the U.S. Olympic team, serving over 100,000 athletes across more than 3,000 gyms. Being a part of USAG is a dream for young American gymnasts, and yet their safety is neglected by the organization.
While the IndyStar was unable to get ahold of the total number of sexual misconduct allegations USAG receives annually, it was able to track down four cases in which abuse allegations were brought to the organization’s attention but not reported to authorities — leaving the accused coaches free to abuse other young gymnasts under their tutelage.
USAG’s president Steve Penny released a statement, of course, defending the organizations handling of these abuse claims.
“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.”
Shelley Haymaker — an attorney who represents abuse victims in child welfare cases — summed up USAG’s role perfectly:
“USAG may not have been the hand that ultimately abused these innocent children,” she said, “but it was definitely the arm.”
The IndyStar’s damning report offers insight to the way the organization swept this ongoing, widespread issue under the rug, and continues to do so.
While we want to happily cheer on the talents of our USA gymnasts and praise them as excellent athletes, we must not turn a blind eye to the fact that many of them have had their safety compromised and their innocence stripped away on the journey to pursuing their dreams of a gold medal.
Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @Jezebel