Hundreds abused at USA Gymnastics facilities: report

LOS ANGELES • USA Gymnastics is under scrutiny after an Indianapolis Star investigation into claims by at least 368 young gymnasts that they were sexually assaulted by coaches or other adults involved in the sport.

The newspaper's report on Thursday was the product of a nine-month investigation and came on the heels of its report in August that found that USA Gymnastics officials failed to alert authorities when its coaches were accused of sexual abuse.

USA Gymnastics reacted swiftly to the report, noting that the body's policies "mandate that when anyone affiliated with USA Gymnastics or member clubs suspect potential abuse, the appropriate legal authorities should be notified".

In its latest probe, the Star reports that many of the adults accused of misconduct were allowed to move from gym to gym, including working in facilities that were certified by USA Gymnastics.

Not all of the cases studied by the newspaper involved gymnasts or facilities affiliated with the governing body.

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics board of directors, issued a statement in response to the article saying the organisation was committed to keeping young athletes safe.

"Nothing is more important to the leadership of USA Gymnastics than protecting the young people who learn and train at gymnastics facilities around the country," he said. "Addressing instances of sexual misconduct has been a top priority for USA Gymnastics for years, and we are wholly committed to promoting a safe environment for athletes. We work every day to strengthen our processes, policies and procedures in this critical area."

He added that USA Gymnastics has asked former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels to lead an independent review aimed at strengthening the governing body's policies and procedures on safe sport.

The report comes amid a huge child abuse scandal that has rocked the other side of the Atlantic - in English football, in which a string of former footballers have come forward in the past month alleging they were victims of sex abuse when they were youth players.

Police forces across Britain are looking into the allegations and a telephone hotline dedicated to helping those affected by the abuse has received 1,767 calls in three weeks.

The number was set up by child protection charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the English Football Association.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'Hundreds abused at USA Gymnastics facilities: report'. Print Edition | Subscribe