In a disturbing report, the Indy Star-USA TODAY Network discovered that “at least” 368 gymnasts across the United States have alleged sexual exploitation by superiors in the sport, such as coaches, gym owners and adults working in gymnastics.
The number is likely an undercount. The report is tough to read. It shows top officials at USA Gymnastics failed to alert police about abuse, opting to keep the complaints hidden. Those predatory officials were often allowed to continue coaching elsewhere, without any formal action taken against them.
It gets worse, as the investigation found officials often put their business ahead of the children’s well-being. Victim’s allegations are often pushed aside or not treated fairly by USA Gymnastics officials. And some gym owners have failed to report predatory coaches because of the potential business repercussions.
USA Gymnastics stressed that protecting athletes should be the utmost priority.
“Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics, the Board of Directors and CEO Steve Penny than protecting athletes, which requires sustained vigilance by everyone — coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials. We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career.”
This culture is reminiscent of the recent Baylor scandal, as winning became the priority over any human decency. While USA Gymnastics has made some changes to prevent abuse to athletes, there clearly hasn’t been enough done. Sexual predators and child molesters shouldn’t be able to walk away from abuse without any criminal punishment, let alone coach again. But, USA’s Gymnastics system praises winning over all else. That’s messed up. The excellent, disturbing feature hopefully opens some eyes regarding the trail of abuse in the sport. You can read the full piece here.