Released documents shed light on how US Gymnastics handled sexual misconduct complaints
Some victims allege the organization didn't do enough to protect victims
Hundreds of pages of documents unsealed today provide new insight into how USA Gymnastics handled accusations of sexual misconduct leveled against its coaches. The newly-released documents include files USA Gymnastics kept on complaints about 54 coaches.
The files include abuse complaints – both formal and informal – as well as court records, interviews, newspaper clippings and letters of support for coaches. The files were all maintained by USA Gymnastics, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, from Jan. 1, 1996 through December 31, 2006. The release of the records sheds light on how USAG handled individual complaints and responded to cases where coaches were convicted of crimes.
The documents are part of a civil case filed by a former gymnast against USA Gymnastics a coach who is accused of abusing her.
Effingham County, Georgia Judge Ronald Thompson agreed to release the files on 37 coaches whose affiliation with USAG was terminated because of substantiated misconduct and crimes committed. He also agreed to release files on 16 other coaches who have not been placed on USAG’s list of ineligible coaches. The names of coaches have been redacted from those files.
The release of documents also includes depositions from 13 people including a victim, USA Gymnastics officials and experts who were involved in the ongoing case of Jane Doe v USA Gymnastics, Savannah Metro, Inc and William A McCabe. McCabe was a coach at the Savannah Metro gymnastics facility.
The McCabe case in Georgia is the one that sparked the release of these records. In it, an underage gymnast, “Jane Doe,” alleges McCabe, who worked at a Savannah-area gymnastics facility, sexually abused her. The lawsuit claims USAG was aware of the coach’s sexual misconduct as early as 1998 - including several instances where he was inappropriate with young girls. The suit claims USAG did not properly investigate the complaints and he continued to coach girls until his arrest in 2006 for sexual exploitation of a minor.
The suit claims that “the USAG knew or should have known that by failing to enforce its own policies, procedures and regulations that its member athletes, including Plaintiff, were at increased risk of harm and injury from acts of inappropriate sexual conduct by registered USAG coaches including McCabe.”
The unsealing of these documents comes after an Indianapolis Star investigation into how USA Gymnastics handled sex abuse complaints against coaches over the years. The Indianapolis Star petitioned to have these records released. Some victims allege the organization did not do enough to protect young gymnasts.
The records released today redact names of juveniles and people who were never charged in connection with a crime related to the complaints.
The documents include:
- Emails from USA Gymnastics to coaches
- Court documents detailing alleged crimes
- Newspaper articles
- Personal letters of support for coaches
- Complaints from parents
- FBI Interviews
- Police reports
- List of “ineligible” coaches
There are files for 37 coaches that USA Gymnastics terminated from the organization - based on arrests, court actions and validated complaints.
After the lawsuits and investigation into how USA Gymnastics handles sexual complaint allegations, the organization released this statement, in part:
From USA Gymnastics (11.2016)
USA Gymnastics is committed to promoting a safe environment for all participants. USA Gymnastics continuously reviews, evaluates, strengthens and refines its policies and procedures, and the organization has Deborah J. Daniels, a former federal prosecutor and managing partner of Krieg DeVault LLP, conducting an independent review of USA Gymnastics’ bylaws, policies, procedures and practices related to handling sexual misconduct matters. Daniels will consult with a variety of experts and organizations representing law enforcement, child welfare, the gymnastics community, state and local officials, and others, and a final recommendation will be provided to the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.
If USA Gymnastics reasonably suspects or becomes aware of sexual abuse, the organization encourages those affected to contact local child protection services or law enforcement, assists in making contact with authorities, and/or contacts law enforcement or child protection services directly.
USA Gymnastics said last month, after the arrest of former Michigan State University Dr Larry Nassar, a doctor for USA Gymnastics:
USA Gymnastics cares deeply for our athletes of all skill levels and ages. They are the heart and soul of our sport, and their health and well-being comes before all else. We believe one instance of child abuse – whether at a school, church or gym – is one too many, and we are saddened when any child has been harmed during his or her athletic career. We work every day to help young people fulfill their potential in a safe environment, and keeping them safe requires as much diligence and attention as training for competition.