USA Gymnastics Scandal: Failure to Report Sex Abuse Allegations

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According to investigative reporting by the Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics failed to report allegations of sexual abuse by coaches to proper authorities.

USA Gymnastics trains the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Nationally, it includes more than 121,000 athletes and 3,000 gyms with its executive office in Indianapolis.  USA Gymnastics has had the practice of not notifying authorities of sexual abuse allegations unless the complaints were signed by a victim or a parent of the victim. Most third-party reports are considered hearsay. The state of Indiana requires everyone to report sexual abuse; however, USA Gymnastics has argued that organizations are not bound to that law.

Records show that the organization executives have compiled complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer in its executive office. They are not accessible to the public.  Despite sealed records of abuse allegations, the Indianapolis Star was able to discover and investigate multiple cases of sexual abuse that continued despite USA Gymnastics being alerted.

In 2011 USA Gymnastics received complaints about Marvin Sharp detailing incidents of inappropriate touching and warning that he should not be around children. Sharp was named 2010 national Women’s Coach of the Year. Four years after original complaints, USA Gymnastics finally reported Sharp for accusations that he touched a gymnast’s vagina, trimmed her pubic hair, and took sexually explicit pictures of her beginning when she was 12 years old. He was convicted last year and killed himself while in jail.

Coach Mark Schiefelbein was convicted in 2003 of molesting a Tennessee girl when she was 10 years old. USA Gymnastics had numerous complaints about him alleging sexual assault, but failed to notify the appropriate authorities. The girl’s family contacted the police in 2002. According to police records, Schiefelbein penetrated her vagina with his finger and videotaped her exposed vagina. He is currently serving a 36-year sentence in prison.

Coach James Bell was arrested in 2003 for molesting three young gymnasts in Rhode Island. USA Gymnastics allegedly has complaints about Bell dating five years prior to his arrest. Bell went on the run in 2004 and was rearrested in 2015. He is currently serving an 8-year sentence in prison for child molestation.

USA Gymnatics complaints about Coach William McGabe allegedly date back as a far as 1998. One complaint warned that McGabe “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” McGabe pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges including molesting gymnasts, videotaping girls changing clothes and posting their pictures on the internet. He is serving a 30-year sentence in prison.

It is despicable that an organization like USA gymnastics did not take available measures to protect the safety of children.  When a youth organization is entrusted with enriching the lives of children through athletics, they must also take on the responsibility of protecting children from harm.

Farmer Jaffe attorney Adam Horowitz is experienced in filing lawsuits arising from sexual abuse in youth serving organizations.  If you or someone you know has been a victim of a sexual abuse, please email attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected] or call our law firm at (954) 524-2820.

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