USA Gymnastics Allegedly Failed To Report Sexual Abuse From Coaches For Years

The governing body that selects which American gymnasts will compete on the World Championship and Olympic teams, USA Gymnastics, allegedly failed to report sexual abuse cases for decades. In 2013, a lawsuit that’s still unresolved was filed against the national organization by an alleged victim and an investigation by The IndyStar revealed multiple similar stories. USA Gymnastics officials admitted under oath during the lawsuit that the organization has a policy in place that tells coaches to ignore abuse allegations that are just “hearsay” and only report allegations that are detailed in a written statement, which likely violates every state’s laws requiring that suspected sexual abuse of children be reported.

The IndyStar reports that four USA Gymnastics coaches were accused of abuse and never reported to the authorities. One of them, William McCabe, is now serving a 30 year prison sentence, but was accused of abusing girls in 1998 and continued coaching until 2006. He was fired from a Gymnastic World in Florida and when his old boss heard USA Gymnastics was hiring him at a gym in another town, he wrote a letter warning that he heard McCabe talking about sleeping with a 15-year-old. “To allow this scum bag to continue working within the gymnastic community would be a terrible insult to all of the gym owners and coaches who have worked so hard to build up the reputation of gymnastics,” he wrote of McCabe. The accused coach resigned from that gym, but just moved to another.

USA Gymnastics received complaints about McCabe at least four times, according to The IndyStar. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements after the mother of one of his victims went to the FBI with emails McCabe sent her 11-year-old daughter.

The organization launched an abuse awareness campaign in 2012 that provides gyms with an online course about types of abuse and how to report them. USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny released a statement in response to the IndyStar article, saying:

Addressing issues of sexual misconduct has been important to USA Gymnastics for many years, and the organization is committed to promoting a safe environment for its athletes. We find it appalling that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child in this manner, and recognize the effect this behavior can have on a person’s life.”

Court records show that from 1996 to 2006, sexual misconduct complaints were lodged against 54 coaches, though it’s unclear how many, if any, were reported and how many have been submitted in the 10 years since.

“USAG may not have been the hand that ultimately abused these innocent children,” Shelley Haymaker, an Indiana attorney, told The IndyStar, “but it was definitely the arm.”