According to a recent investigative report by the Indianapolis Star, top executives at USA gymnastics failed to protect the best interests of alleged victims of sexual abuse at the hands of coaches. While these executives have received many warnings in the past, they have yet to make any changes to their policies to protect children.
USA Gymnastics is one of the most prominent Olympic organizations in the United States.
In a 2013 lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, two former officials admitted that the organization dismissed all allegations of sexual abuse unless the allegations came from the victim or a parent. In this case, the USA Gymnastics had dismissed four warnings about a coach in Georgia. The dismissals of these warnings allowed the coach to allegedly prey on adolescent female athletes for seven years.
Both child advocates and legal experts have denounced this policy. According to these experts, the best practice is to report all allegations to law enforcement. Every single state has laws that require certain individuals to report any suspected cases of child abuse.
While the USA Gymnastics refused to disclose how many allegations of sexual misconduct it receives each year, records indicate that the organization has received complaints about more than 50 coaches.
USA Gymnastics - cases of sexual abuse
Reporters at the Indianapolis Star tracked down a few cases in which USA Gymnastics failed to file a report to the authorities about suspected sexual abuse. According to court and police records, the coaches in these cases went on to abuse more gymnasts:
- In 2011, USA Gymnastics received a complaint claiming that coach Marvin Sharp had inappropriately touched minors and should not be allowed around children. USA Gymnastics dismissed the complaint only to receive another four years later. In the second complaint, Sharp was accused inappropriately touching a 12-year-old gymnast. He was also accused of taking sexually explicit photos. He was charged in an Indianapolis federal court. Recently, he killed himself while in jail.
- USA Gymnastics had received many complaints about coach Mark Schiefelbein. However, these complaints were all dismissed. Years later, the coach was charged with molesting a 10-year-old girl in Tennessee. The family contacted the police in 2002 and a jury convicted him in 2003. The jury convicted Schiefelbein of one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and seven counts of aggravated sexual battery. He is now serving a 36-year prison sentence.
Andreozzi & Associates is a civil litigation law firm committed to seeking civil recovery against perpetrators of sexual abuse.