In the midst of the major sexual abuse scandal within USA Gymnastics, three aspiring Olympic taekwando athletes have won a $60 million against their former coach, Marc Gitelman, who is currently in jail due to sexual abuse.
”We want to shine a light on this issue because it’s not unique to taekwondo. It’s across the spectrum of all Olympic sports,” said attorney Stephen Estey. ”You want to put the shame back where it belongs. It doesn’t belong with the sex abuse victim.”
The lawsuit had alleged the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Taekwondo failed to protect the girls, but a judge dismissed the organizations as defendants. The women are now appealing that ruling.
Yasmin Brown, Kendra Gatt and Brianna Bordon were minors when the crimes occurred. The Associated Press typically doesn’t publish names of sex abuse victims, but all three agreed to let their names be used publicly.
Gitelman was sentenced to more than four years in prison for the crimes in 2015. And even though the USOC and USA Taekwondo were not found liable in civil court, their inaction when their athletes asked for help was damning.
Yasmin Brown, one of the three women part of the suit, described to The Washington Post the pain she experienced when the organization refused to help:
Sex abuse was a well-known problem in Olympic sports for decades before the USOC first required preventative measures in 2014. Gitelman is one of more than 150 coaches and officials associated with Olympic sport governing bodies convicted of sex crimes since the early 1980s, according to a review of coach ban lists, court records and news clips. That figure, while a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of adults who have worked with children in Olympic sports, likely undercounts actual abusive coaches, as research shows most are never caught.
The Post does not normally name the victims of sex abuse, but Brown, now 23, agreed to discuss her case, while declining to be photographed for this story.
“I felt really helpless. . . . Someone was putting athletes in danger, and no one cared,” Brown said. “I felt like I had no options, other than to quit and disappear.”
According to the Associated Press, the women are appealing the decision to take the USOC and USA Taekwondo out of the case.