USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny denied an Indianapolis Star report Thursday on the eve of the Rio Olympics saying organization leaders have failed to report sexual abuse by predator coaches.
The newspaper found multiple examples of children being abused despite numerous warnings from USA Gymnastics, including a coach preying upon young girls in Georgia for seven years after the first of four warnings against a coach was dismissed.
“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,” Penny said in a statement.
“USA Gymnastics has been proactive in helping to educate the gymnastics community over the years, and will continue to take every punitive action available within our jurisdiction, and cooperate fully with law enforcement.”
The newspaper cited a 2013 lawsuit filed by a young female athlete in which two former USA Gymnastics officials admitted under oath that the group routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations as hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parents, even though laws in all states require reporting suspected child abuse to law-enforcement officers.
“USA Gymnastics had enough information, I think, to have done something about this,” said Lisa Ganser, whose daughter’s lawsuit is still being argued. “It didn’t have to happen to my daughter and it didn’t have to happen to other little girls.”
USA Gymnastics received reports about four other coaches warning of sexual abuse that did not spark reports to authorities. A 2011 complaint about coach Marvin Sharp warned of inappropriate touching but not until 2015 were his actions reported to police.
“USA Gymnastics believes it has a duty to report to law enforcement whenever circumstances warrant, as was the case when I initiated the report of Marvin Sharp,” Penny said.
“USA Gymnastics has been assured by law enforcement that it went above and beyond its legal obligations to report on this matter.”