USA Gymnastics needs 'culture change' to stop abuse
- Lorraine Burke
The review was commissioned by USA Gymnastics and conducted by Deborah Daniels, a former Federal prosecutor, who spent a significant portion of her career prosecuting child sexual offenders.
Daniels's review highlighted a problem linking USA Gymnastics' sex abuse crisis with those previously afflicting other Olympic national governing bodies, most prominently USA Swimming: The Olympic organization allowed clubs across the country to purchase affiliation, but executives felt they couldn't require basic abuse prevention policies, such as background checks for all adults working with children, at these clubs.
On Monday, Daniels submitted her report, which includes 70 recommendations. USA Gymnastics is in the process of finding Penny's replacement. "You can use membership to enforce the policies". This is in-part a result of athletes being trained to respect and obey their coaches at a young age, utlimately blurring boundary lines, Daniels said.
Numerous recommendations have already been addressed by the creation of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, an independent agency created by the U.S. Olympic Committee to handle sexual misconduct cases in the Olympic movement.
The suits also list Michigan State, USA Gymnastic and a Lansing-area gymnastics club as codefendants in the suits. "If USA Gymnastics adopts recommendations and implements them, it is poised to be in the forefront".
Additionally, USA Gymnastics is in the final stages of hiring a Director of Safe Sport. "It needs to start with the board (of directors) and needs to permeate through the entire organization".
"We are focusing exclusively on the future and how we can better protect athletes", Parilla said. While Daniels declined to comment about Nassar, she emphasized her report recommends mandatory reporting of suspected abuse immediately. Success in competition is important, but not at the expense of an athlete's health and safety. "We need to do better".
"We are focusing exclusively on the future", said Paul Parilla, USA Gymnastics board chairman, in response to questions about Nassar.
More tricky will be enforcing compliance among members and their clubs.
And any adult who has been kicked out of a club will be tracked in a database to make sure he or she doesn't endanger athletes in other clubs.
- Educate parents and athletes on abuse prevention on an annual basis. USA Gymnastics has denied wrongdoing.
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"The vast majority of adults in the gymnastics community have the best interests of young athletes at heart".
"According to published reports, hundreds of gymnasts over the last 20 years have reported abuse at the hands of coaches or other authority figures in the sport, many of whom were involved with USA Gymnastics as members or contractors". "It is critical that the focus of USA Gymnastics be first and foremost on the safety of the athletes".
While U.S.A. Gymnastics already had some regulations in place, the report said the organization, which oversees the sport in the United States and sets rules and policies for athletes and coaches, needed to implement what it called a "culture change" in the way it does so. "And if it's treated as a privilege, it can be revoked if policies are not followed".
· Requirement that members must report suspected sexual misconduct immediately to the appropriate legal authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Daniels did not make judgments on how USA Gymnastics handled specific cases or who was responsible for the failings.
- Strengthen the Safe Sport Policy and require it to be adopted in full by member clubs. USA Gymnastics needs to undergo a "complete cultural change" to become better equipped at protecting athletes from abuse according to an independent review of the embattled organization's practices.
"This was a forward-looking report and not a rear-view report", Daniels said.
Daniels said the process USA Gymnastics had for investigating claims was "cumbersome" and "somewhat mysterious". She also recommended preventing adult members from having "out of program" contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.
Nassar's downfall began just weeks after the US women's Olympic gymnastics team dominated the podium in Rio de Janeiro, taking home fistfuls of medals, including a second straight team gold and four total golds for all-around champion Simone Biles. Its disciplines include artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and group gymnastics (known internationally as Gymnastics for All).
These press releases appear as sent to Around the Rings and are not edited for spelling, grammar or punctuation.
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