A stunning, detailed investigation published Thursday by the Indianapolis Star found that USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the United States, did little to investigate numerous claims of sexual abuse levied against gymnastics coaches across the country, routinely dismissing the allegations as hearsay “unless they came directly from a victim or victim’s parent” because of fears that the allegations would damage the reputations of the coaches in question.
This approach runs counter to best practices when dealing with reports of sexual abuse against minors and is possibly illegal, as every state in the country has a law requiring people to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor to authorities. But instead of investigating or reporting the allegations, USA Gymnastics routinely filed them away.
“USA Gymnastics would not disclose the total number of sexual misconduct allegations it receives each year. But records show the organization compiled complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer in its executive office in Indianapolis,” the Star’s Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans write, adding that their contents remain hidden under judicial order as a lawsuit filed by a woman whose daughter was abused by a USA Gymnastics coach winds its way through the courts.
The Star’s reporters found four instances in which USA Gymnastics did not report coaches to the authorities after receiving warnings about suspected sexual abuse. “Those coaches went on, according to police and court records, to abuse at least 14 underage gymnasts after the warnings,” the Star writes.
USA Gymnastics issued a statement after the story’s publication on Thursday morning, alleging that “the Star left out significant facts that would have painted a more accurate picture of our efforts” but saying that the organization cannot provide specifics because of the pending lawsuit in Georgia.
“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,” the second statement read. “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. 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.”
Records show the organization compiled complaint dossiers on more than 50 coaches and filed them in a drawer
The most damning incident involves a coach named William “Bill” McCabe. According to the Star, USA Gymnastics received at least four complaints about him starting in 1998, when one gym owner warned the organization in a letter that McCabe “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” One of the girls whom McCabe abused was the daughter of a woman named Lisa Ganser, who filed the lawsuit against USA Gymnastics:
USA Gymnastics never reported the allegations to police and, according to federal authorities, he began molesting an underage girl in 1999. McCabe continued to coach children for nearly seven more years, until Lisa Ganser went to the FBI with concerns about emails to her then-11-year-old daughter. McCabe was charged with molesting gymnasts, secretly videotaping girls changing clothes and posting their naked pictures on the internet. He pleaded guilty in 2006 in Savannah, Georgia, to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements. He is serving a 30-year sentence.
According to the Star, McCabe was fired by a gym in Florida in 1996 after he was accused of preying on young girls. When the Florida gym’s owner, Dan Dickey, discovered that McCabe had been hired by a gym elsewhere in the state two years later, he sent USA Gymnastics the letter warning officials about him.
“Dickey’s letter, received by USA Gymnastics on Oct. 24, 1998 — and included in records in the Georgia lawsuit — described how he fired McCabe after a staff member had told him that McCabe bragged about having a 15-year-old girl in her underwear and said he thought he would be able to “f– her very soon,” the Star writes.
USA Gymnastics responded with a letter saying that it was “awaiting an official letter of complaint from a parent and athlete.”
The owner of the second Florida gym also sent USA Gymnastics a letter after McCabe resigned following sexual-harassment allegations in 1998, detailing reports of other gyms that had fired him and saying that parents were “appalled” that USA Gymnastics had not revoked his credentials. McCabe continued to coach, however, and USA Gymnastics renewed his membership in December 1999.
Robert Colarossi, the organization’s president at the time, admitted in a court deposition last year that USA Gymnastics dismissed the allegations against McCabe as hearsay.
McCabe continued coaching until 2006, eventually co-owning a gym in Rincon, Georgia. Ganser, the woman who has filed the lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, enrolled her daughter at the gym in 2002. Four years later, Ganser discovered disturbing emails on her 11-year-old daughter’s computer that purportedly were written by Carly Patterson, a U.S. gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“The exchanges started with casual gymnastics talk but escalated to sexual requests. Ganser’s daughter also received pictures of naked female body parts,” the Star writes.
Authorities say the emails were sent by McCabe, who was pretending to be Patterson. The FBI, alerted by Ganser, also discovered that McCabe had secretly recorded videos of young gymnasts as they changed clothes and posted the videos online. Prosecutors in McCabe’s trial also said he had molested girls who were as young as fifth- or sixth-graders.
The exchanges started with casual gymnastics talk but escalated to sexual requests
When asked by attorneys in the Ganser lawsuit why USA Gymnastics refused to investigate the claims, Steve Penny, the organization’s current president, said it was over “concern about potential danger to a coach’s reputation if an allegation proved to be false,” a practice that could deter people from reporting abuse in the future, according to experts contacted by the Star.
“And one of the most important reasons that you substantiate a claim is because the potential for, if you will allow the expression, a witch hunt, becomes very real,” Penny said in court papers uncovered by the Star. “And so it’s possible that someone may make a claim like this because they don’t like someone or because they heard a rumor or because they received information through other third parties.
“You have to take that very seriously,” Penny continued, “because the coach is as much a member as the athlete.”
Penny refused to be interviewed for the Star’s story, with USA Gymnastics issuing a statement touting its “long and proactive history of developing policy to protect its athletes” and pledging to “remain diligent in evaluating new and best practices which should be implemented.”
Shelley Haymaker, an Indiana attorney who represents victims in child-welfare cases, told the Star that USA Gymnastics’ approach “sickens” her.
“USAG may not have been the hand that ultimately abused these innocent children,” Haymaker said, “but it was definitely the arm.”
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”
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