**DISCLAIMER: THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC DETAILS OF ABUSE***
This is so upsetting.
Just as the 2016 Rio Olympics are beginning, a new report reveals that USA Gymnastics, AKA “the sole national governing body for the sport of gymnastics in the United States,” has been ignoring reports of coaches sexually abusing young athletes.
IndyStar uncovered some pretty disturbing cases, in which the group that develops the Olympics gymnastics team didn’t tell authorities about controversial complaints about their trainers.
For example, USAG dismissed FOUR warnings about a coach in Georgia, who then abused young female gymnasts for another SEVEN years.
In 2013, one of the coach’s victims filed a lawsuit — which is still being argued — about the case. In the suit, former USAG officials admitted that complaints are often dismissed as “hearsay” unless they came directly from the abused athlete or their parent.
That means anonymous reports would be completely ignored, preventing a lot of scared sports stars from coming forward at all.
Lisa Ganser, the mother of the victim who filed the suit, slammed the organization, saying:
“USAG failed at this. 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.”
Unfortunately, that’s not all.
While USAG wouldn’t reveal exactly how many misconduct complaints they receive each year, IndyStar discovered that the group has complied all the complaints on OVER 50 COACHES, and just keeps them in a file cabinet in their Indianapolis office.
And even though the newspaper is currently locked in a legal battle to make those files public, it has already dug up dirt on four unsettling cases.
***GRAPHIC DETAILS AHEAD***
In 2011, USAG coach Marvin Sharp — AKA the 2010 national Women’s Coach of the Year — was the subject of a complaint claiming he inappropriately touched minors.
Marvin wasn’t reported to the authorities until four years later… and only after the organization received another report.
The new statement alleged that the controversial coach touched a young athlete’s vagina, shaved her public hair, made her sit on his lap while he got an erection, and took explicit photos of her since she was 12.
The accuser even alleged that he had also taken photos of other girls as young as five years old.
Marvin was charged in federal court last year, and committed suicide in jail.
Another coach, Mark Schiefelbein, was accused in 2002 of molesting a ten-year-old girl, and penetrating her with his finger. He also videotaped her genitalia for “training purposes, so he would know where not to touch her.”
What’s worse is that the girl’s parents learned that Mark had a huge history of previous complaints that were only revealed when lawyers subpoenaed USAG’s records.
Mark was convicted in 2003 and is serving a 36-year sentence.
Coach James Bell was arrested in 2003 for molesting three years girls in Rhode Island… five years after a sexual misconduct complaint was filed with the organization.
And even more sickening was the fact that he had a previous police reports for sexual abuse. A 1990 claim says James had climbed on top of one of his gymnasts — who was a minor — and said he wanted her to remove her pants.
A 1991 complaint alleges the coach put his hand inside the shirt of a 10-year-old girl and pinched her breast.
But James was never arrested until the Rhode Island report. In 2004, he went on the run and was re-arrested last year. He’s currently serving eight years in prison.
And then there’s William McCabe from the Georgia lawsuit. In 1998, a gym owner warned USAG that the coach “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped,” but the group didn’t report anything to the police.
Federal authorities say the trainer then started molesting an underage girl the following year. He kept coaching for another SEVEN years, before Lisa complained to the FBI.
The mom was upset about emails William was sending to his daughter, who was 11 at the time.
The scandalized coach was eventually charged with molesting gymnasts, secretly videotaping the girls as they changed, and posting their naked photos on the Internet.
He pleaded guilty in 2006 and is now serving a 30-year sentence.
But somehow, USAG is defending the way they handle complaints. President Steve Penny issued 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.”
Well, based on this report, they obviously aren’t doing a good job at promoting a safe environment if they’re blatantly ignoring misconduct complaints in an effort to protect the coaches’ reputations.
IndyStar is conducting this report now because USA Gymnastics always sees a surge in membership after the Summer Olympics, and wants to warn parents about the way the organization handles sexual abuse allegations.
We’re so sick to our stomachs over all this.
[Image via USA Gymnastics.]