USA Gymnastics Report Calls For Cultural Change To Prevent More Abuse

USA Gymnastics needs to undergo a “complete culture change” throughout the entire organization to more effectively protect young athletes from sexual predators, according to a report released Tuesday.

The safety and well-being of the governing body’s athletes, not world and Olympic medals, should be the focus, Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor, said in her 100-page report.

The report was prompted by an investigation published by the Indianapolis Star last year. The newspaper had uncovered four instances in which gymnastics officials were warned about suspected abuse by coaches but did not alert the authorities, and it said the coaches had gone on to abuse at least 14 underage gymnasts.

A judge in Michigan on Friday ordered Dr. Larry Nassar — a longtime USA Gymnastics Women’s National Team physician — to stand trial for allegedly assaulting six young gymnasts who claim he molested them during treatment for injuries. The case is one of four criminal proceedings against Nassar in the state, the Associated Press reports.

The report also notes that board members have not received any special training or education in matters related to child protection or abuse, making them poorly prepared to govern how the organization handles those cases. Board members also don’t get a handbook that explicitly outlines their responsibilities, which leads to what the report calls a “‘follower’ mentality on the part of the board member who is unclear about the extent of his or her responsibilities or authority.”

Daniels suggests in her report that USA Gymnastics bar unrelated adults from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. She also recommended preventing adult members from having “out of program” contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.

Following the release of the report, USA Gymnastics released an apology in an open letter that was shared on their website.

“Even one instance of child abuse is one too many. USA Gymnastics is very sorry that anyone has been harmed during his or her gymnastics career, and we offer our deepest regrets to any athlete who suffered abuse or mistreatment while participating in the sport,” read the statement, which was signed by 21 members of its board of directors. “By working together, we can move the sport forward to better prevent the opportunity for abuse to occur.”

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