Top U.S. gymnastics officials ignored sexual abuse allegations, report says

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Athletes' gymnastics chalk is seen during training in Brazil before the 2016 Rio Olympics. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Athletes’ gymnastics chalk is seen during training in Brazil before the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo by REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

For years, USA Gymnastics officials consistently ignored allegations of abuse against coaches by young gymnasts, according to an Indianapolis Star investigation Thursday, just days before the Summer Olympics in Rio.

“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,” the newspaper reported.

Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics governs the sport in this country, develops the U.S. Olympics team and oversees more than 110,000 gymnastics athletes and professionals nationwide, the Indy Star reported.

The newspaper reviewed thousands of pages of court records, sex offender registry reports, Internal Review Services reports, decades-worth of USA Gymnastics policies and publications in 10 states, and conducted several interviews for this investigation.

For years in multiple states, journalists uncovered several cases where coaches sexually abused young gymnasts. But when complaints arose, USA Gymnastics officials denied wrongdoing, moved coaches to different gyms and said coaches were just as much a part of gymnastics as the athletes.

“It didn’t have to happen to my daughter, and it didn’t have to happen to other little girls.” Lisa Ganser

“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 Lisa Ganser, the mother of a plaintiff in Georgia-based lawsuit, the Indy Star reported.

After the Indy Star published its investigation, USA Gymnastics issued a statement, saying staff “remained committed to this effort and have been working closely with the U.S. Olympic Committee to help keep athletes safe in all sports.”

“USA Gymnastics seeks first-hand knowledge whenever allegations of abuse arise as the most reliable source to take action and as outlined in its bylaws and policies,” the statement read. “The organization has continually reviewed its best practices on how it addresses these issues and has been among the first to initiate new policies and procedures including publishing a list of banned coaches and instituting national background checks.”

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