USAG will make sweeping changes after damning report

NEW YORK • USA Gymnastics (USAG) must put athlete safety ahead of winning medals, said the head of an independent review examining the US national organisation's handling of abuse incidents involving a number of gymnasts.

Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who spent a significant portion of her career prosecuting child sexual offenders, made 70 recommendations in a report released on Tuesday and called for a sweeping cultural change within the sport.

"The report indicates that at least there is an external perception that the primary focus of the organisation is on winning medals," Daniels said.

"That wouldn't be surprising. It is the national governing body of the Olympic committee and the Olympic committee wants to win medals.

"But what we are saying is there needs to be a clearer articulation that the culture is athlete safety first, not just success on the field of play. That needs to start with the board and permeate through the entire organisation."

The sport has been rocked recently by a string of sex abuse scandals, the most sensational involving Larry Nassar, once a team doctor for Olympians at USAG.

A judge last Friday ordered the former Michigan State University sports doctor be sent to trial on multiple charges of criminal sexual assault.

A FRESH START

An athlete's well-being is our primary focus. Even one instance of child abuse is one too many.

PAUL PARILLA, chairman of USAG board of directors, admitting flaws that need fixing.

Gymnasts say he sexually assaulted them under the guise of medical examinations over two decades when most of them were minors.

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USAG board of directors, said they will immediately move forward implementing policy changes recommended in Daniels' report.

They include prohibiting adults from being alone with minor gymnasts, including sleeping in a hotel room. Adults will also be prohibited from having out-of-programme contact with gymnasts via e-mail, SMS or social media.

It was also recommended that all USAG members must report suspected sexual misconduct immediately to the appropriate legal authorities and the US Centre for SafeSport.

"An athlete's well-being is our primary focus," said Parilla. "Even one instance of child abuse is one too many.

"USA Gymnastics is very sorry that anyone has been harmed.

"Success in competition is important, but not at the expense of an athlete's health and safety."

REUTERS, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'USAG will make sweeping changes after damning report'. Print Edition | Subscribe